Colin E. H. Croft
When Paul Caligiuri scored that immense goal, after thirty minutes – “the shot heard
around the world” – in the final qualifier for World Cup Italia 1990, on November 19, 1989, sending team-mates and 150 million USA fans into delirium, the goal also sent Trinidad & Tobago’s supporters into total depression!
Life was looking good for me in 1989, as Shannon; “Queen Nefertiti”; was born that year, but the year also ended with a tremendous sporting downer.
T&T, then the premier footballing nation in our parts, were trying to go where, up to that point, no other English-speaking Caribbean nation had gone before, agonizingly, debilitatingly, lost to USA; 1-0; at Haseley Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain.
Every cricketer, rugby player, tennis player, jockey, sportsperson in English-speaking Caribbean moaned that evening, not to mention decked-out-in-red 1.4 million at-home supporters. It was terrible!
Last Tuesday, December 02, 2014, was much worse than the parallel scene back on November 19, 1989!
To show how important one single moment can actually be, that 1989 win for USA also confirmed USA’s application to host W-C 1994. Soccer, as Americans call it, would never be the same again there!
Not until W-C Germany 2006, 17 years later, did T&T’s “Soca Warriors” regain some semblance of soccer sanity, when they did qualify, by the enamel on their teeth, just as they had lost back in 1989!
They performed minor miracles too, in another last qualifying place play-off; after 1-1 in 1st leg at home;
beating Bahrain 1-0, away in Manama, courtesy of Dennis Lawrence. Oh, what a fabulous feeling!
By then, though, even if T&T still holds the record as smallest nation to qualify for FIFA W-C’s, their Caribbean counterparts, Jamaica’s “Reggae Boys,” had upstaged them big-time by qualifying first from our normally cricket superior region for any FIFA W-C football competition anywhere; Germany 1998.
The “Reggae Boys” did do all of us proud too in Germany 1998, but still, those celebrations for the “Soca Warriors” in Germany 2006 had to be experienced to be believed. That was real, magnificent theatre!
But little did anyone know that déjà vu from 1989 would return, twenty-five years and two weeks later, for T&T’s ladies – The “Soca Princesses” – last Tuesday.
The girls had played their hearts out in initial qualifying tournament in USA, then in Ecuador; 0-0; only to fall flat on their backs, absolutely devastated, at this last hurdle.
God, how gut wrenching can that have been, losing at home, again, in POS?
This time, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and social media lit up, every sinew photographed by Smart Phones, even body cameras, very much unlike 1989 when Bill Gates, IBM and others were still just contemplating how to make these gadgets work for our convenience and their wealth.
1989, from Florida, I listened to BBC World Service while looking at ESPN, to cover that game; T&T v USA. 2014 presented no such problem, as T&T v Ecuador Women’s World Cup qualifier was live and direct on all media platforms and formats; new and old; anywhere around the world!
But sometimes, the more things change, yet the more they remain the same! Unreal!
These “Soca Princesses” had come a very long way, from not long ago actually having to beg for simple allowances for their very existence – needing donations of water, and funds and facilities for training situations, for which so many donated.
Suddenly, they were being lauded by all and sundry, top to bottom, now that the band-wagon was well and truly on its way, possibly travelling to Canada 2015 Women’s World Cup.
Why the Caribbean never seems to understand how important sport is, and respect it in any form, could be discussed forever, as it seems we never learn or understand sport’s enormity!
Canada, especially Toronto, probably has more original, 2nd and 3rd generation, Guyanese and Trinidadians and Tobagonians, than both countries actually have proper natives living in Guyana or T&T.
Can you imagine what would have happened in Ottawa if the “Soca Princesses” had managed to join USA, Costa Rica and Mexico, traditionally powerhouses in football from CONCACAF?
Anyway, already stressed from preparational problems and at full force playing Mexico for that final automatic place, only to lose; 4-2; after extra time, from pure exhaustion, the “Soca Princesses” had to find new resolve to travel to high Quito, Ecuador, to come away with an extremely credible 0-0 draw.
That made it all the more an almost total replay of 1989; to play at home in Port of Spain, in front of total adoring crowds; friends, foes, families, touts and all; for that final qualifying place for Canada Women’s World Cup 2015. Stress meters would have exploded had they been applied to those girls!
When Ecuador’s Monica Quinteros chipped that soft aerial shot to score in an almost open goal, excruciatingly in stoppage time, all T&T’s supporters must have died a 2nd time, remembering USA’s Caligiuri tame shot to score in 1989.
T&T’s girls, though, had come through so much more, and deserved much more too. This defeat in 2014 was massively worse, in all aspects, than in 1989!
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