Seattle Sounders defender Joevin Jones has responded to comments by Trinidad & Tobago manager Tom Saintfiet claiming that Jones “has no interest to help his country to qualify” for the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, writing that “I always want to play for my country” in a letter to Wired868.com on Wednesday.
Saintfiet, who was hired in December after former manager Stephen Hart was fired, had originally named Jones to the team for this week’s qualifiers for this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup against Suriname and Haiti. But the new boss said on Sunday that the winger/defender didn’t show up to training this weekend. Trinidad & Tobago lost 2-1 to Suriname on Wednesday night.
Jones was excused from the Soca Warriors’ friendlies against Nicaragua on Dec. 27 and 30 due to his extended season with the MLS Cup-winning Sounders. Saintfiet was upset that the 25-year-old played in a friendly with his former club W Connection against Haiti on Friday but didn’t report to national team camp.
“Joevin is here on holiday and Joevin played, two days ago, a friendly with W Connection against Haiti,” Saintfiet said. “So if his club had no problem with him playing a friendly match with a club where he is not registered, I see no problem why he cannot play for his national team.
“I had a face-to-face communication with him. I said take a few days off and see you on Jan. 1. I told him where and when and which time [to enter] camp and he never called or informed us in any way that he would not show up.”
Jones wrote that he wasn’t able to make it to camp by the agreed upon Jan. 1 deadline because he received “late clearance” to attend the camp by Seattle. He wrote that he was planning on joining the camp on Sunday evening after he received clearance from the Sounders. He informed the T&T staff of his intentions through his younger brother and national team teammate Alvin, who had sent a message on behalf of the staff on Dec. 31 informing Jones of his specific report time on Jan. 1.
Jones said that he was en route to the camp on Sunday evening when he got another message from his brother saying that the staff no longer wanted him to attend.
Jones also addressed his participation in W Connection’s friendly against Haiti last Friday, saying he played in the match because the Trinidad & Tobago staff asked him to “train and stay in shape” ahead of their matches against Suriname and Haiti and that W Connection received permission from Saintfiet for Jones to play in the match.
“I think the communication was wrong by sending messages through my lil brother,” he wrote. “I don’t see why Tom is trying to dirty my name by saying [if] I could play for Connection [then] why I can’t play with the national team, when the TTFA told me to go and stay in shape and keep fitness. That I didn’t like, [especially] when I risked my contract with Seattle by playing to say fit and in-shape to play for my country.
“I just want to tell the people of Trinidad and Tobago, this has nothing to do with me not wanting to play for my loving country. I always love playing.
“I just want to clear my name. If I wasn’t interested, why did I talk to Tom and agree face to face to play and to come in camp on the 1st?
“If I wasn’t interested, I would have told Tom I had a long season and I needed rest. Simple as that. It hurt me to read stuff that isn’t true.”
Trinidad & Tobago’s loss to Suriname on Wednesday puts a huge dent in their chances of qualifying for this summer’s Gold Cup. They now need to hope Haiti beat Suriname on Friday and then beat Haiti on Sunday to have any shot of advancing to a playoff against the fifth-place finisher from the upcoming Copa Centroamericano for a spot in the Gold Cup.