Thursday, November 24, 2005

Germany Here We Come contd.

In my last posting I mentioned the 1-0 win of the T&T Warriors over Bahrain. The celebrations that followed was for want of a better word, electric. Students were dismissed early from school to join in the celebrations, in some schools they set up a television in their main hall for the students to watch the game. Many left work half-day to go to their favorite hangouts, watering holes, bar and grill type places to watch the game. As was reported in the local papers, places such as these did excellent business and some cases sold out all their beer and drinks. Later that evening the Prime minister declared November 17th as a National Holiday, wish I had known that ahead of time; I could have gone out and joined in the festivities.

While we were celebrating here in T&T, in Manama Bahrain, the locals were ripping apart their national stadium. After the first and only goal was scored, the fans of the local tema began to throw water bottles, ice, and a wide assortement of bebris onto the field at the T&T Footballers and at their supporters. On the field the Bahrani players turned it into a demolition derby and were down to ten players after one of their guys got sent off. One Bahrani player had stripped the ball from the hands of our goalkeeper and kicked it intot he back of the net. Luckily, it was an illegal move and the goal was disallowed. This ticked them off even more , they had one last shot on goal but it was deflected by the keeper, and a few seconds later it was all over. The local police had to hurry onto the field to escort our players and supporters out of there before the crowd did any worse.

Back in 1989 when T&T lost to the U.S.A. the crowd in attendance applauded their win and world cup qualification. Across the Score Board scrolled the words, "Congratulations U.S.A. Good Luck In Italy!" Nothignwas thrown at them, not even a piece of paper was thrown onto the ground. American Supporters and journalists in attendance were overhwlemed by the good by the good sportsmanship displayed by our players and supporters. Fans in the national colors of red, white and black patted American journalists on their backs, congratulating them, even though they did not set foot on the field or made any plays. Paul Caligiuri, the soccer player who scored the winning goal for the U.S.A. remembers the day not just for the goal he scored, but for how he and his fellow team mates were treated after the game.
"We arrived in two little vans and walked through the crowd." After the 1-0 victory, the U.S. team had to leave in the same small vans. "I've played in Latin America and the Caribbean, where they throw rocks at you, the military police have to stop them from rocking your bus." Caligiuri continued, "Never ever did you hear people congratulate you the way people did in Trinidad. The guys started giving them paraphenalia- our shin guards, our headbands, anything. We appreciated it so much. Normally, you'd be ducking down in your seat."

Today Caligiuri is the coach of both the men and women's teams at Cal Poly Pomona. "I am rooting for them," he said the other day. In addition, he also said "I just want them to win so I can get off parole."

Well Paul, consider yourself a free man. Which just goes to show that Trinbagonians as a result of their good nature, friendliness and good sportmanship are respected by many far and wide. Also, it apprears that T&T will have additional supporters in Germany in the form of non-nationals. Colin Williamson from Scotland mentioned that considerable interest has been generated in the Warriors from Scotland. As many team members play there, many of their fans are planning to make the trip to Germany to back Trinidad andTobago in the games. How about that?

Friday, November 18, 2005

"Deutschland hier kommen wir"

Back in 1989 I was sixteen and about to witness history in the making, as the Trinidad and Tobago National Team "The Strike Squad" was one point away from qualifying for World Cup 1990 in Italy. All that needed to be done was to draw with against our next opponent in the final qualification match and T&T would be on its way to Italy. The team that we had to play on the afternoon of November 19th 1989 was the United States Soccer team, who need a win to qualify. In the end, it only took one goal near the end of the first half and the U.S.A. booked their spot to Italia 1990, while T&T would have to wait for the next one to try again to do better.

Fast forward to 2005, our soccer team's qualification for Germany 2006 got off to a bumpy start with a loss to the U.S.A. in Port of Spain by 2-1, there were many chances to equalize but they just went everywhere but into the goal. In the following game against Guatemala in Guatemala they lost 4-1, but in the 3rd game they drew 0-0 with Costa Rica here in T&T. The Coach at the time Burthill St. Clair was replaced by Leo Benhakker, a Dutchman who had taken the Dutch and the Saudi Arabian national teams to previous world cup appearances. He made some drastic changes as new players were added to the mix as Trinidad and Tobago prepared to face Panama. At the end of that game Trinidad and Tobago earned their first win 2-0 over Panama here in Port of Spain, and it actually looked as though we had a chance. In the following game against Mexico the team went down 2-0 to the Mexicans in an away game. As the second round kicked off, T&T again lost to the U.S.A. by 1-0 but there was still the hope that we could qualify for the World Cup. Next was Guatemala and it was a home game. They scored early in the 1st half to lead by 1-0, but in the closing minutes of the half T&T equalized to go into halftime 1-1. As the second half kicked off Guatemala went up 2-1, some anxious minutes later T&T equalized 2-2. but it did not end there, in less than a minute T&T went ahead 3-2, and that was where the game ended. Next was Costa Rica and another loss 2-0. But there was still Panama and Mexico left to play. In Panama T&T won by 1-0 and geared up for the final game against Mexico. In a really hard fought game, T&T came from behind to win 2-0 and clench the 4th place finish in the Concercaf Zone. While the top three teams qualified, T&T still had a chance to qualify as they had to play a home and away game against the 4th place team from Asia, Bahrain.

On Saturday 12th November, in front of a sold out crowd of die hard supporters, it was expected that T&T would win handsomely and head off to Bahrain with some sort of cushion. Well, T&T had to come from a goal down to scrape out a 1-1 draw against Bahrain. For some the mood was that it was all over, no way the team was going to win in Bahrain. Others still kept the faith and believed that in the away game T&T would manage to get the win. Wednesday 16th November, 12:00 noon. All eyes were glued to television sets and all ears were glued to radios as all of T&T tuned in for the game. After a goal less first half the second got off with a bang as T&T scored from a corner kick. While they held the lead, there were still a lot of time left in the game. For the remainder of the match I was upstairs doing the 2Ps, pacing and Praying for victory and for the game to end. What I remember the most about the end of the game, was that my mother and sister had just stopped by to drop off lunch. My bother had just finished his when I heard shouts of joy from downstairs, that was the signal! The game was over, Trinidad & Tobago had beaten Bahrain 1-0 to book the first ever appearance in World Cup.

All over Trinidad and Tobago people were celebrating more than I had ever seen them do before. It turnded into a Carnival type atmosphere, minus the costumes. Horns were honking, people were cheering and flags were waving; the entire nation was happy!!. I'll write more about the celebrations a bit later on, stay tuned.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I'm Back And Still Alive

Well, I'm back again! After fourteen laid back, stress free days of vacation I returned to the world of work. It's been four days since I've been back, and a huge portion of that time has been spent walking back and forth to the bank, sitting in the bank waiting to get a cheque certified, or walking to other parts of Port of Spain to deliver or pick up stuff. Monday saw me almost oversleeping and breaking the record for getting ready for work and getting to the store early. I'm still amazed that I was able to get out of bed (more like run out of bed) at 5:03am, do all the necessary hygene processes, hop out of the shower, get dressed, throw some snack stuff into my bag, leave the house at 5:30am, make it to the Bus Route at 5:38am and get to the store at 6:04am. That's all from me for now, will be back with more later or when I feal like writing.