Jamaal Shabazz, Trinidad and Tobago's women's national football coach commented that he saw the ghost of Marvin Lee when defender Leslie Ann James lay sprawled on the field nearing the end of T&T's match against the visiting Canada Under-19 team Saturday at Marvin Lee Stadium, Macoya.
James, who is known to team-mates as "Lady Roberto Carlos", fell heavily and sustained a neck injury after being felled by the full impact of the ball which struck her hard in the face as she tried to prevent a cross from a Canadian attacker.
What looked initially like a routine injury soon turned into a panicked situation as the game was stopped for 15 minutes to allow attention to be given to the female footballer.
Initially, James was attended to by the local technical staff. But when T&T captain Kathy Ann Nixon ran cross-field to summon the female doctor attached to the Canadian squad, those on hand started to realise it was a more serious situation than it first appeared.
The Canadian doctor raced towards James and after examining the player for a few minutes she told coach Shabazz that the injured player should be taken to hospital. Shabazz raced in the other direction to summon an ambulance to take Leslie Ann to hospital.
Wayne Cunning-ham, a T&T Pro League Match Commis-sioner and announcer on the night, commented that the last time Shabazz ran, he probably was a teenager--so the situation had to be serious.
Yesterday, Shabazz said James reported Leslie Ann had suffered a concussion and a neck injury. Shabazz, also explained that Dr. Terence Babwah, who is attached to the T&T team, was on duty at the San Fernando General Hospital, but had made arrangements with the Canadian doctor in case there was a medical emergency.
"My mind ran on Marvin Lee one time. It was a situation of panic, We thank God it was not a repeat of that situation, I saw the ghost of Marvin Lee," Shabazz said.
Marvin Lee sustained a neck injury on March 20, 2001 after running head first into American Landon Donovan during a CONCACAF Under-20 qualifier at the Centre of Excellence ground at Macoya which was later re-named after him. An MRI scan showed that a neck bone had been fragmented, leaving Lee with permanent neck and spinal injuries which ultimately led to his death two years later due to complications. Lee later became an inspiration to all in Trinidad and Tobago because of his undying will to live and his undiminished hope for the miracle of a full recovery. His positive outlook also touched Sepp Blatter, president of football's governing body (FIFA), who awarded him the FIFA President's Award in September 2001.
The good news is that Leslie Ann is up and about and returned home after being taken to Medical Associates, where she was attended to. A precautionary x-ray proved that nothing was wrong with the T&T defender. James was given an injection to revive her and was informed by the attending physician than she had strained a ligament and that she will have to return for a check-up tomorrow.
James yesterday described to the Express the horrifying moments when she lay on the ground, when both the medical professional from the Canadian team and national coach Shabazz were racing around to get her treatment.
"I get hit direct in my face. My lips were swollen and my neck flick back (from the impact of the ball). As I fell down, I felt something sharp in my neck. When I was on the ground I was hyperventilating...and I was going to sleep and waking up all the time. They had me on the ground for a long time."
As a result of the injury, James is out of today's return match between the Canadian Under-19 team and the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic squad. That match will be played from 5 p.m. at Larry Gomes Stadium, Malabar, Arima. James has been told that she needs to rest and build up the muscles in her neck. The Canadians won Saturday night's match 3-2.