Caribbean Airlines will take newest squad of football sensations back to Trinidad and Tobago on Monday and may well be advised to set up route to Korea following this country’s qualification for the 2007 FIFA Under 17 World Championship.
Scenes of high emotion and jubilation took over the field and the T&T dressing room at the National Stadium, Kingston on Sunday night as T&T’s National Under 17 footballers celebrated their 1-0 win over Jamaica to seal up the third spot from the group towards the Championship. It meant that T&T made it through to the World Championship, first time as qualifiers, joining 23 other countries including those such as Japan, hosts Korea, Korea DPR, Tajikistan, Syria, Nigeria,Togo, Ghana and Syria, Haiti and Honduras, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Argentina and New Zealand among others at the Championships
Coach Anton Corneal and his junior “Soca Warriors” sang, pranced and hugged anyone in sight as the sounds of Soca blared from the music speakers and the sight of Jamaican colours quickly disappeared from the stands.
Corneal had used the track “Lion” by T&T songster Kees Diffenthaller from Kes the Band to get his players battle ready. The song, with the words “I am a lion… I am a fighter” is about preparing one for the many challenges in life, finding strength within one’s heart, holding on to dreams even though it seems out of reach and inspite of the many that would always try to bring down a brother. That in a nutshell could sum up the display from this team. From regular captain Jesse Fullerton being forced to the bench for all four games and his replacement Glenroy Samuel being a giant in goal and the tale of little Kevin Molino’s winning reward for Corneal’s decision to start him for the first time in such a critical affair; the little recognition from fans and media going into the tournament to the numerous congratulatory messages and calls from local and international media which followed on Sunday night into the early hours of Monday morning relates to it all.
“This is one of the few teams that came through a pilot project. Two years ago we got this in place, Some people just didn’t understand long term planning and we had our obstacles. I think this team deserves every bit of its success and the players did it at times against the odds even with the critics and that’s only normal to have the critics. It seems that is part of our society,” Corneal told TTFF Media moments after the win.
“When I look at what Brian Lara had to go through, I ask who am I?”
“I hope now this can open the eyes. It’s not about Anton Corneal but instead it’s about realizing that if the proper structure is put in place at least we will be put in a position to be successful and to qualify for more World Cups,” Corneal continued.
He also mentioned the vision and efforts of TTFF Special Advisor Jack Warner and the Federation. Warner had initiated the setting up of National Under 15 team in October 2004.
“His vision was also clear and that gave me a lot of support. Warner, Groden…. They gave us a lot of support and it’s easier when you have that support, when they stick with you through it. These players have proven them right and this is not the end all. We have to continue this trend by having long term preparations.
“Working with a team for a long time is so helpful. I knew we would be able to break teams once we played… I knew we would create chances. We have to take the talent and work with it for a long time or else we would never realize the full potential in our football.”
The former National player, also assistant coach for the T&T Senior team also credited his staff for their tireless efforts not just at matches but also during the screening sessions throughout country which brought players to the team from Mayaro, Point Fortin, La Brea, Cascade, Couva, San Juan, Biche, Morvant, Arima, Petit Valley, Mount Hope,Glencoe, Carenage, Port of Spain and Plymouth in Tobago. He added that the input from Dutchman Wim Rijsbergen was invaluable and appreciated the assistance of technical director Lincoln Phillips.
Hard work was the order of everyday. Just ask Molino.
“I got the chance and I know I had to put in my hardest bit of work today. This was the game to score in. I watched the big players make it to a World Cup and I felt happy. I wanted to make a World Cup too and make the country proud and I really feel we were able to do that with this win,” the Carenage youngster concluded. T&T contingent is scheduled to touch down at Piarco at 8:15pm Monday.