Last Friday, Nov. 11th, wasn’t just a sporting tragedy for China, it was also a dark day for the country I grew up in, Trinidad. While China is mathematically out of the running to advance further, Trinidad and Tobago is definitely, unequivocally, 100 percent, out of the qualifying round. What happened is that Trinidad played the group leaders of their semifinal group, needing a win to maintain their chance of advancing (only the group leader can advance). Instead Trinidad got their asses kicked, losing by a flattering score 2-1 to regional powerhouse Guyana, the Golden Jaguars. OK, sarcasm aside, Guyana seemed to play confidently and well as a team, outplaying Trinidad and taking a 2-0 lead until the end, when Kenwyn Jones, the only Trinidadian playing in England’s Premier League, scored a consolation goal.
When I was growing up, losing to the likes of Guyana, Grenada and Bermuda would have been unthinkable, especially in competitive fixtures. Trinidad was a Caribbean powerhouse, winning the Shell Cup time after time, playing in the Gold Cup (the Concacaf championships) time after time, and reaching the final round of World Cup qualifying regularly. Sure, Trinidad used to lose regularly to the US, Mexico and Costa Rica, the real Concacaf big boys, but at least Trinidad was part of the equation. Now, Trinidad fails to win the Caribbean Cup (former Shell Cup), fails to reach the Gold Cup, and get knocked out by Guyana. Of course, this hasn’t gone over well with Trini football fans or ex-players, who’ve blasted the TTFF (the local football federation), infamous Jack Warner, and the German coach, who blamed mighty Bermuda for Trinidad’s failure. Then you’ve got the Trinidadian assistant coach praising Guyanese workmen, not that Trinidadian work ethic was ever that high (and I include myself). And on the weekend, when I told a coworker who happened to be St Vincentian that Trinidad was now out of the World Cup qualifying, he asked who did it, and cracked up when I said Guyana. Actually I cracked up as well though I’m sure there are a lot of Trinis who aren’t seeing the funny side of this at all (Good thing I’m on the other side of the world, yes).
Trinidad has been declining as a football since the high of 2006 when they reached the summit, relatively speaking, by playing in the World Cup. However you can’t blame all of this on the players, because there are a lot of things wrong. Especially with the shabby treatment given to that same World Cup squad after they returned from Germany. Basically, they were denied the money they were promised beforehand, and they weren’t happy with that, and the local football body ended up blacklisting them. Though temporary, I would think this caused a lot of damage, emotionally and psychologically to the players themselves. With Jack Warner not having as big a role as before, hopefully, Trinidad’s football folks, whether it be the federation, the coaches, the players and fans, can pick themselves up.
Anyways, congratulations to Guyana and I hope they are able to enjoy whatever points or good results they can in the next round, because they sure ain’t going to finish anywhere close to first being in the same group as Mexico, Costa Rice and El Salvador. Really though, congratulations to them.