Haiti, I’m sorry!
But Barbados won’t be coming after all.
The threat of cholera and dengue was simply too much for the management of the women’s under-20 team to overlook, leading to the squad’s official withdrawal from the Caribbean Football Union’s (CFU) qualifying group to be contested later this month in Haiti.
Barbados Football Association’s (BFA)?general secretary David Hinds disclosed the last-second decision to pull out the team amidst breaking news that the French-speaking country now has the highest rate of cholera in the world.
“We have to put the safety of our ladies first,” explained Hinds of the decision to withdraw the squad.
“This is primarily a decision based on health concerns and nothing else. The cholera situation in Haiti only seems to have worsened and the parents were never comfortable with them going to Haiti to begin with.”
Barbados’ participation in the Under-20 tournament, kicking off October 30, was always under threat as several parents voiced concerns over the ladies’ health and safety when a change in the original groups resulted in the team being drawn in Group C with hosts Haiti.
The situation then reached a head last month when a number of those parents decided against allowing their wards to travel to the earthquake ravished country for the round-robin competition – which was set to feature the British Virgin Islands and St Kitts.
“To this day we were still unsure of their accommodation, so a decision was taken not to risk our players’ health and safety and we then informed the CFU of our decision,” said Hinds.
It is the unfortunate development for a youthful set-up, which is now being robbed of an invaluable experience of an overseas assignment after not appearing in many international competitions.
The top two teams from each group are slated to advance to the second round, meaning Barbados will possibly be missing out on further match experience.
But Hinds said the BFA went as far as to ask that Barbados be moved into the draw with Suriname and even requested that Group C to be hosted by the British Virgin Islands or be played in Miami.
However, the CFU replied by saying they had already committed to Haiti and Barbados would be facing a fine as high as US$5 000 as everything was put in place for the French-speaking country to host the group.
“This is indeed unfortunate because our team was training for so long but there are other future engagements that our ladies can look forward to, so this will not signal the end of our national programme,” Hinds ensured.
UN Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti, Dr Paul Farmer, is quoted in the Associated Press earlier this week as stating that the cholera situation in Haiti has outstripped Bangladesh and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
It is believed to have resulted in the death of more than 6 000 people while sickening nearly five per cent of a population of ten million.