Today we take a break from our usual theme to look at next Saturday’s World Cup Qualifier against Costa Rica. This is a critical match for our Soca Warriors and our hopes for South Africa, and it is also a historic match for many reasons.
The historical aspects of the match are also interesting. This is the first time we are hosting a World Cup Qualifier in Tobago. Also, it is the first time—certainly for us, and probably worldwide –that a team will be playing in a stadium named for its current captain. Dwight Yorke is without doubt our most renowned footballer ever, one of only 22 men in the world who has ever won the “European Treble”—the English League Championship, the FA Trophy and the UEFA Champions League—in one season. Dwight’s Manchester United achieved that remarkable feat ten years ago, ironically in the stadium of the club which defeated them in the UEFA Champions Final this week. That Dwight is still playing, and indeed leading our team, ten years on is another tribute to him, for his renowned fitness.
When Dwight leads the Warriors out on to the field of the Dwight Yorke Stadium on Saturday, he will be doing so under the watchful eye of his long time friend and international teammate—now coach of Trinidad and Tobago, Russell Latapy.
The pride which is swelling in Tobago all this week must be tremendous. The Warriors have been encamped there for several days now, finally joined by the Sunderland trio—Dwight, plus Kenwyne Jones and Carlos Edwards. They were required by Sunderland up to the final game of the English Season, trying to stave off relegation, Jones scoring a fine header against the world’s number one ‘keeper, to cap off another great personal season. This, plus the return of Dwight from a two-match ban, will add confidence to the Warriors. Jones will remember the Dwight Yoke Stadium, for he played there in the match which officially “opened” the Stadium in 2001, TT Under- 17 against Japan.
For Tobago, this match will be very much about the pride in Dwight and the Dwight Yorke Stadium. But Tobagonians, and the thousands of Trinis who will be there, will also see TT playing a competitive match in Tobago for the first time ever. We have played friendlies there in the past, but never have we marched out under the “competitive” flag of our country.
Additionally for Tobago—who has always been a wonderful friend and supporter of TT football—this match is a tremendous boost for its tourism, already wracked by the world’s economy and the cancellation of the Tobago Jazz Festival. Costa Rica is bringing in about 700 supporters, and thousands of Trinis will be there for the weekend.
But for all that, the most important feature must be the Return of the Magician, Russell Latapy, now as coach of the Warriors. Russell was a popular choice as coach, but he now carries a tremendous burden—for all of us—upon his shoulders. This will be his first match in charge, and for all his knowledge of the game, and of his charges, Latas is still relatively inexperienced. But we can help!
Our support must be loud and clear, not just during the match, but all week long. However this support must be tempered with giving the team its “space” while in Tobago. Fans cannot visit the team, hoping to lime with the players. So, please, do not intrude!
And finally, let us honour our leaders over there. I have heard us boo some of our leaders at football matches in the past. Look, even if you feel it is deserved, do it somewhere else. We will have strangers in our house, so let us not show any disrespect for ourselves by showing disrespect for our leaders. When we walk out on to the Dwight Yorke Stadium on Saturday, let no one doubt that we are a nation totally united behind our team, and the mission of our coach!