One Kick, One Kick …..that is all it takes to win a football match.
The Month was February , Carnival was a few days away and all of Trinidad and Tobago was about to explode, as Trinidad and Tobago led El Salvador by 2-0 at half time in the cauldron that is El Salvador’s football stadium.
When in the second half, Trinidad and Tobago were awarded a penalty, most of this country were already celebrating 3-0 and some among us were already considering, how would we pay for our adventure to South Africa with the Soca Warriors.
Stern John though , and not Dwight Yorke ( who coincidentally had scored the penalty in the first half when Stern John was brought down in the penalty areas) stepped forward to kick this our second penalty on the night .
There was no reaction from the Trinidad and Tobago coaching staff. They all appeared to sit or stand by and await the inevitable goal. It did not seem to matter that Yorke was the designated penalty taker according to the team’s practice sessions.
What Happened next, will remain with me and several hundred thousands persons in this country and elsewhere.
Stern John ran up to the ball and blazed his kick over the bar.
Let me just repeat this please, Stern John , Trinidad and Tobago’s all time leading goals corer , ran up to the ball and blazed his kick over the bar.
One last time , if you readers will permit , Stern John who has been out of form with his club in England , but is still Trinidad and Tobago’s Leading goals corer , ran up to the ball and blazed his kick over the bar.
When Stern John turned and looked his captain Dwight Yorke in the eyes, there was a sense that even their close friendship could be tested here. By the end of the night, Trinidad and Tobago did well to hold off El Salvador and earn a draw (2-2) and one point.
However, this is where it all went wrong, because that one point should have been three points and would have been the perfect start to the campaign. Instead on the night , that ONE KICK not only cost us three points , but it also caused Yorke to become so upset that after the match was blown off , he said something to the referee and was given a red card. Yorke was to then miss our next two matches. A lackluster home draw to Honduras and comprehensive whipping from the USA.
Two other defeats since to Costa Rica and Mexico meant that at the halfway stage in this ten match series, Trinidad and Tobago is pegged to the bottom of the six team group with only two points.
Now, do you all understand, what a difference those first THREE points would have made in not only the players minds but our position on the table...
So what can be done?
The Football Federation finally parted company with Francisco Maturanna and some of his team and belatedly handed over the reins to Russell Latapy, but even he could not stop us from losing ground on the other teams.
We played positively against Costa Rica, but were short in quality in midfield and defence. In Mexico we were woeful and were it not for Clayton Ince’s heroics in goal, we would have been trounced.
Latapy’s has a task, which even Mandrake the magician would have trouble convincing his followers despite someone placing Merlin the sorcerer at his side. So this time around, the little Magician only has his aging friend Yorke at his side. And aging has become the nom de plume of our current soca warriors’ football team.
Perhaps, that ONE KICK school lesson is still to be convincingly taught. Friendship and sports are not bedfellows..
It is already late in our campaign and maybe that is why Austin Jack Warner seems to have changed his mood and opinion. He is no longer as optimistic as he was four years ago in 2005, when we were in a similar position and Leo Beenhaker was brought to our shores. Warner was always confident then of our qualification.
These days, Warner appears to have resigned himself to the fact that qualification for South Africa looks slim and very difficult and that in itself is probably why it appears to a lot of persons we are just going through the motions, with not much preparations being put into place for the reaming five matches.
If indeed that is the case , now is the best time to allow some exposure to our younger players and to say a courteous goodbye to those elderly statesmen still walking ( rather than running) the curbs of our football.
Latapy needs support otherwise, he may decide it is better to pack it in and look elsewhere for a coaching role. Falkirk , his former club are looking for a new manager , so let us be careful in assuming that Latapy craves this job so much , that he will accept anything that he is given, just so others can say , “ Another local coach , has failed at the international level.”.
So as we look ahead to August 12th and El Salvador, one can only imagine, what a difference six months makes in football and also hope that Stern John’s great footballing achievements for this
Country will not be tarnished by the now infamous – One Kick-.
Remember , just as in 2005 , our last game is against Mexico at home , but this time unlike 2005 , Mexico are struggling for survival, so will most likely send their best team.
Oh for another chance to revisit that ONE KICK….I know what I would do , I would let…….take it.