With Manchester United Dwight Yorke won the Champions League. The striker's most important success in sport was another: The 34 year old secured Trinidad and Tobago's qualification for a World Cup for the first time. Accordingly large is the enthusiasm in the Caribbean country.
The Bon Accord school on the island Tobago is right on the heavily trafficked road from the airport at Crown Point to the largest city Scarborough, directly after the sign for Canaan. That is a small town far away from the beach and concomitantly without tourism, but with various social conflicts. People nevertheless are happy here this winter. "We are so proud!" exclaims the gray haired, old village teacher Kenneth Cooks, who once instructed the boy, who is since admired as a national hero, in the two inconspicuous bungalows of the primary school: Dwight Yorke, the team captain, who blessed the small Caribbean country, Trinidad and Tobago, with the qualification to the world championship in Germany. "He was always good in mathematics," remembers the teacher, "and in sports, naturally."
Yorke has used both talents vocationally, counted among the best footballers in the world this turn of the century and thanks to his computational skills is already for the longest time financially secure. In the meantime he is 34 years old and nevertheless still on occasion acts like a scallywag: good natured, with a smile on his lips and wit in his dark-brown eyes. His optimism is infectious. "The world championship will surely be a real spectacle", he says and nearly laughs, "you people in Germany are total football fanatics!" Although Yorke was only there once, the memory of it radiates over his whole face: "I've already scored a goal there." That was in the Olympia Stadium in Munich during an appearance with Manchester United, the team with which the amiable man from the vacation island became a world star.
The son of a maid and a street sweeper, who began playing with a football at the age of three on a small pitch set up by his brothers, left his homeland at 17 and developed into one of the best goal hunters that England's Premier League ever had. For Aston Villa, ManU, Blackburn and Birmingham City he found the goal 134 times and won not only the Championship and FA Cup, but also the Champions League in 1999 against Bayern Munich. "I love to laugh and to have fun", said Yorke at the time in a "Kicker" magazine interview, and one can see that, when he signs autographs after training, bare chested and muscular, in front of the stadium.
Since his country qualified itself in November for the World Cup, he has to do that more frequently than usual - and he relishes it all the more. "I am absolutely ecstatic," says the man after whom the largest stadium of Tobago is named, "In one million years I would not have thought that such a success would be possible." It is a historical achievement. Yorke's crew mate Marvin Andrew, a giant of the Glasgow Rangers, stammered after the crucial victory in Bahrain behind tears: "I thank God that I may experience this day."
In the caravan following the return to the Trinidad capital, Port of Spain, the players danced on the flatbed trucks, and prime minister Patrick Manning ordered an official holiday. "The qualification is important for our whole national economy," believes Yorke, "Trinidad and Tobago will now be recognized by the whole world." But it took them eleven attempts in all. Since independence in 1962 the two-island state with hardly more inhabitants than the city Cologne has been participating in World Cup qualification, and was repeatedly already very close to its goal. Sixteen years ago only one point was wanting on the road to Italy, but the last game against the USA was lost with a 0:1 score.
Dwight Yorke was already a national player at that time and remembers reluctantly: "an enormous disappointment, from which our country didn't recover for a long time." It took a strict Dutchman in April 2005 to return their self-confidence to them. Trinidad and Tobago was at the bottom of the table in the CONCACAF group with only one point from three games, but the already 63 year old Leo Beenhakker still led the team to four victories and thus into the relegation with Asian representative Bahrain. The Dutch coach had envisaged huge shortfalls at the beginning of his mission: "It is unbelievable. I saw so many matches here in the Caribbean, and as in Europe two sides were always playing, but nobody ever had the ball."
That changed Beenhakker and he managed to compensate for his European conceptions to the more easy going lifestyle. Even Yorke disappeared once for more than one week from the training camp, in order to settle some business off in England, and emerged again only four days before the important match against Panama. But Beenhakker apparently found the correct conversational tone and also the right dosage thereof. Thus he sent the recently re-activated, 37 year old play maker Russell Latapy every now and then to the Swimmingpool of the hotel, while the others trained in the blazing heat.
Even though Yorke no longer plays on the highest international level, he will let his career end with the Australian Sydney FC. "An immensely important man", says his German coach Pierre Littbarski. The season in Australia comes to end in March. Then the model athlete, who can still smile even during push-ups or sit-ups, can direct its attention toward the World Cup. Yorke and his teammates want to stir up talk about themselves there as well: "We don't just want to be a team of many there." Advice that not all share. Dwight Yorke's former teacher, Cooks, in Canaan is more easily content: "Just the fact that we are going to the World Cup is already a great experience not only for the soccer players, but for all people here."