Trinidad and Tobago captain Kenwyne Jones hardly ever believed he would come to a country like Guyana and experience the hometown people walking the streets and in passing vehicles hurling threatening lyrics and confidently signaling defeat to the nine-time Caribbean champions.
But the Guyanese people are fully aware that their national team could knock the “Soca Warriors” out of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign and push themselves through to the next phase with a win at the Providence National Stadium on Friday night (kickoff 8pm). T&T needs at least a draw to stay alive before returning to play again in Port of Spain on Tuesday.
“They are very confident at the moment and it must be for some particular reason because they haven’t played us before in this campaign but they are sure they will get a victory. We have to prove to them that they are wrong,” Jones told TTFF Media on the eve of the encounter.
“We are aware that they see it as their massive opportunity to achieve something and they themselves may not have expected it to come down to this at this stage of the campaign. But we’ve been there before and we know what it takes to overcome these hurdles. As a team we just have to pull it right together and get the job done,” the Stoke City man added.
As the T&T team bus made its way through Georgetown on the way back to King’s Plaza hotel, the onlookers used the opportunity to have their little tries at intimidating the visitors. Even the horses that are prevalent in Guyana carrying lumber and cement sacks through the busy streets, appeared to be glancing menacingly at the sight of the “Warriors”.
“It’s a massive game for both countries but we know that it’s not a must win game for us. We will be going for the victory no doubt but even a draw is good for us here before going home to play next Tuesday,” Carlos Edwards said.
“They’ve got some new English-born players in their team who we don’t know much about but we know what we’re about and once we can settle well and play the type of game that we are capable of then it’s definitely our chance to get a result. But I don’t expect them to give us an easy time by any means,” he added.
T&T head coach Otto Pfister had very little to say in the pre-match build up, preferring to talk only after the match while his opposite number, Trinidadian Jamaal Shabazz has been on a microphone and in front of cameras in recent days maybe as much as President Bharrat Jagdeo who is among the guests expected to be at the Stadium which is expected to attract a crowd of around 15,000 with some 400 T&T fans included.
“I think Trinidad and Tobago still are not seeing us or taking us seriously,” Shabazz told reporters. “We know that we can end it in this game and we must prove that we are capable of accomplishing something great and this is a wonderful opportunity to do this.”
“When I say that, I know now is a crucial time for Guyana, with elections just around the corner, but it does not matter which government goes into power, the game tomorrow is an historic one for Guyana,” said Shabazz. This is not about election, but more about resurrection”
Pfister conducted a session that went for less than 60 minutes at the match venue on Thursday morning before the team spent the rest of the day resting and putting things into perspective ahead of the match.
“We’ve had a couple good sessions here yesterday and today at the match venue,” said veteran striker Stern John.
“We’ve had games like this before and we came out successful but in saying that I think we need to treat the game with the respect it deserves because anything can happen out there.
Guyana will obviously be thinking that this is their best opportunity to get one over Trinidad and Tobago. We are mindful of it but I think our guys are also up for the game itself and we’ll let our actions take care of things out there on the pitch,” added the ex-Sunderland striker.
The T&T 20-man squad remained injury free and raring for the 90 minutes following Thursday’s training session which allowed them to also get a close up look and feel of the centre of the playing field where the turf pitches exists for cricket and is currently dry with very little grassing.
Suriname’s Enrico Wijngaarde will carry the whistle with countryman Ramon Louisville and Grenada’s Allison Phillip to serve as the assistant referees.
The game will be carried live on I95.5fm.
Guyanese are confident.
By Ian Prescott (T&T Express).
"They could run me down, but they won't catch me," was the reply from Trinidad and Tobago and Ipswich Town utility player Carlos Edwards to some heckling from a Guyanese fan on boarding Flight BW425 to Guyana on Wednesday morning.
Behind his heavy American accent, the New York-based 60-something-year-old gentleman was typical Guyanese, telling Edwards that the Guyana footballers will not give him a rest during tonight's 2014 World Cup qualifier, which will be played from 8 o'clock at the National Stadium in Providence.
"You ever see police catch a thief in Guyana...we could run," the man added with a chuckle. "We going to put some licks on that Trinidad team."
Despite Guyana not having beaten Trinidad and Tobago in 15 internationals since 1984, according to statistics from FIFA's website, the Guyanese are celebrating as if victory is certain.
A "wear yellow" campaign and plenty radio hype have whipped Guyanese fans into a frenzy and a capacity 12,000 spectators are expected at the Providence ground for the match.
"It will be war out there," Berbice-born taxi driver Godfrey Thompson promised. "I will be there."
He, too, is seeing nothing but a Guyana victory.
Their new-found confidence comes because under Trinidadian coach Jamaal Shabazz they lead Trinidad and Tobago by a point going into a pair of qualifiers against opponents who have beaten them at will over the years.
Guyanese are boasting that "puppy turn dog" and that the days of T&T beating up on them are gone.
A column in Wednesday's Kaieteur News states: "If the twin-island Republic believe that they will walk over the Jaguars, they have got to think twice and better be prepared for what these 'Golden Jaguars' are about to unleash their way."
Shabazz points out that tonight's match is the most important game in the history of Guyana football and represents a chance for them to reach further than they have ever gone in World Cup qualifying.
"Our approach to Trinidad and Tobago will be no different. Guyana have a lot of respect for Trinidad and Tobago. That will not change. We will play with confidence, but we are very aware of their potential. However, I think both countries will get a result that they deserve," he said.
"I expect the stadium to be packed to capacity," Shabazz told the Express yesterday at Radisson Suites Hotel in Georgetown, where the Golden Jaguars are in camp.
"This is a big opportunity for Guyana. People in Guyana are more passionate about football than in Trinidad, both at club level and national level. The Trinidad and Tobago public is only passionate when the national team is doing well and when they are on the last round of qualification.
"In Trinidad and Tobago they don't go to club football. The Guyana public come to club football, 'pee wee' football and all kinda football. And international football is the culmination of everything. So, this is a big moment for Guyana, and I'm happy to be part of it," Shabazz declared.