ST JOHN’S, Antigua – A total of eight England-based players, two of whom are yet to play in the ongoing World Cup Qualifiers, have confirmed their availability for the semi-final round of the 2014 Qualifiers slated to commence on June 8 when Antigua & Barbuda tackle giants USA in Florida.
The manager of the senior national team, Fernando “Nando” Abraham, revealed during Monday’s press briefing that Nottingham Forest’s Dexter Blackstock and St Albans City’s Anton Blackwood have both agreed to play during the upcoming Qualifiers.
The other six players, according to Abraham, have represented the nation throughout the Qualifiers while another four who were recently discovered have asked for additional time to weigh their options.
“We touched base with approximately 12 players of which eight of them have confirmed yes; they will be on board. The other four have asked for a little more time to think about it. It’s a possibility it will happen before these games or probably after these games that they will decide to come over so we are extremely happy,” he said.
“We have seen some of the guys in action. We have sat down and chatted with some of these guys and they are very enthusiastic and ready to come, and we are all excited because I think it is an opportunity for them to blend with the local guys we have here to make it a fantastic team as far as I am concerned,” Abraham added.
The manager, who spent a week in England along with head coach Tom Curtis meeting with and bringing the country’s Benna Brits up to speed, said the search for players has not been limited to the UK but has spanned the globe.
“The UK is not the only place that we are looking. We are looking outside of the UK. So if there is somebody in Germany, somebody in Canada, the US, we will be bringing them onboard because the main objective is to have the best possible team to go out there on June 8 and wherever they are from we will welcome them to come towards us so that we can make this team a good one,” he said.
The overseas-based players, according to the ABFA’s first vice president, will join the team on May 15 on their way to the IMG Centre in Sarasota, Florida where they will camp until their June 8 opener against the USA.
In the meantime however, Abraham said they would ensure that players here are adequately prepared.
“We have started a programme where we are feeding the players; breakfast in the mornings, lunch right after training. We don’t control the dinners yet, but we are working on that. But that is information we have gotten from the nutritionist and we are working on it so that the guys will be ready and strong for these games,” he said.
“We have done a lot of team-building exercises to make sure the team is together, the guys stay focussed on what the whole aim and objective is, and we definitely see progress in this area. We will be bringing in some of our celebrities to do pep-talks as well as engage special groups to have sessions with them so that they can be at their best on this particular day,” the manager added.
The FA also revealed ticket prices for the June 8 contest against the USA and the first home game against Jamaica.
Tickets will range between US $45 and US $199 for the USA contest, while for the first home game on June 12, fans will pay EC $40 per child and EC $75 per adult.