Oct 03, 2010 Sports
By Colin E. H. Croft
We had an unbelievably good final for an unquestionably well run FIFA Under 17 Women’s Tournament, South Korea just edging out Japan, sadly, on penalties. Both final teams should have won!
David Beckham: “The girls in that final were truly magnificent, the quality excellent, the energy high. The girls managed to be still standing strong after such an intense game, going into overtime, and then to penalty shoot-outs. It was amazing. Congratulations to both nations. It was a pity that one team had to lose.”
Austin “Jack” Warner: “I never thought, after having spent 40 years in football, that I would have enjoyed a football match so much, especially for an Under 17 Women’s match. Six goals; all beautiful goals; beautiful football! I only hope that they do not play against our (T&T) men’s team!”
Beckham had joined Ruud Gullit, Shaka Hislop, Joseph “Sepp” Blatter, Franz Beckhenbaur, and the omni-present – or is that omnipotent – FIFA Vice President, to provide a week of football that was unprecedented anywhere in the Caribbean.
I wonder if we understand how lucky we are. Jamaal Shabaz, Head Coach of T&T’s Senior Women’s Ladies Team concluded: “You could say what you like about Jack! He may have his faults, but when it comes to Trinidad & Tobago, and the football, the man goes out of his way to get things for us in the Caribbean. He is the boss!”
Sepp Blatter concurred: “Congratulations to CONCACAF and its President, Austin Warner. Over the years, you have performed creditably well on the international stage.”
I found out, again, what a ‘boss’ Jack really is, last week, when the BBC World Service Sports, extremely late in the piece, commissioned me to cover the presence of these world footballers and FIFA big-whigs.
With no accreditation, I contacted Dr. Iva Gloudon, my old Director of Sports at UWI SPEC, for help with Jack’s contacts, which were promptly provided. By the time you could say ‘West Indies cricket’, JAW was on my text and e-mail, telling me what to do next, as his staff had already been instructed to assist me fully!
Thanks to both, I was able to meet two real stars of world football, players I have always admired. I did not meet my ‘best’ player, “Kaiser” Franz, but his presence, like Muhammad Ali, was good enough for me. Shaka was his normal, relaxed self. It was a really great experience! Thank you!
But Gullit’s Holland-Belgium All Star team and Beckham’s Academy were not in T&T purely to give coaching sessions to talented local coaches, and 200 of the luckiest 9–12 year olds around. They came with an ulterior motive; to convince Jack, and the confederations that he manages, to vote for their respective World Cup bids. Anton Corneal, TTFF’s Director of Coaching, was spot on: “Of course it is a bid for the World Cup. There is nothing to hide. We have one of the most powerful people in world football. They see this as important in getting votes for their World Cup bids.”
“Trinidad & Tobago must take advantage, as this is an opportunity to be around both world-class players and coaches. There is a lot for us to learn. We have been successful, especially with Dutch coaches, in the past. I think that this year augers well for football in Trinidad & Tobago and in the Caribbean.”
Gullit, the former Chelsea, Milan and Dutch star, and President of Holland-Belgium 2018 World Cup bid, was definite: “Of course it has to do with that – FIFA World Cup 2018 – but not totally.”
“We do many things for society, but we are also here doing the Holland-Belgium bid. We had to visit Jack Warner and it was a very good visit. We had a very good talk. We also had an opportunity to understand how the Caribbean’s football works.”
“Most of the world cups have been organized by big countries. In 2000, we had the possibility to host the European Championships, in Holland and Belgium, for the first time, with two countries doing that. It was a huge success!”
“The good thing about Holland and Belgium is that all is so compact. You can use one hotel and, from there, you can go to all of the game venues, in either Holland or Belgium. I think it is 300 Kilometers long. We are also the founders of FIFA, so this is a very good opportunity for FIFA to do something back for us!”
“We always have to go abroad, to the biggest countries. Of the countries that are now bidding, England and the USA have already had it. Holland and Belgium have never had it in their history.”
“Also, Holland and Belgium are very famous for their football and footballers. Everybody tries to understand how a small country like Holland could always be there at the end in the World Cups. Belgium, in the same way, has many players involved around the world.
This is the opportunity for the world to come to our two countries, to see what is going on, and to find out why we always do so well!”
‘Becks’ also made his pitch: “This visit is special, and my academy is special. Everybody knows how much I love working with kids, and this visit was a promise to Jack to complete this. I am happy to fulfill that. There are so many kids here that are so talented. I have seen first hand how football can change kids’ lives.”
“I have always tried to be a good ambassador for the game, on the field, so being one off the field does not present too many difficulties. I am still playing, and it is something that I still love doing”
“It was great to be here for the final, and to talk with Jack about England’s 2018 World Cup bid, and our thoughts for the campaign, just trying to prove to Jack, and everyone around the world, the lasting legacy that we can leave if we were lucky enough to host World Cup 2018. We want to prove that it would not benefit only our country, but we are prepared to help every country with a lasting legacy.”
“We have to think very positively. We are not overconfident, but we have to believe that we are in a good position. There is still much work to be done. Having World Cup 2018 in our country will help the entire football world, but other nations have good bids too.”
Jack was the normal ultimate politician: “I have already said that if any one country could host the World Cup tomorrow, I believe that England can.
England is one of those countries that are already prepared. But, we have not yet sat down, as a confederation, to make a final decision, but we shall be doing that soon.”
“I had said in the past that the presence of someone like David Beckham could add a lot of weight to England’s bid. Since I said that, he has been adding more and more weight. This is a great plus for them!”
December 02, 2010, FIFA World Cup 2018 & 2022 bid day, cannot come fast enough! Enjoy!
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