05 Jul 2000
- Written by Terence Hilton Clarke (The Independent)
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For those uninitiated into the state of womens football in Trinidad and Tobago, the sight of this country being thumped 11-0 by the USA in the Gold Cup opener might have induced a combo of bemusement and frustration. Unfortunately, what happened that night in Hershey, Pennsylvania was really not surprising.
Having lost all four previous meetings with the current world champions by a combined score of , there were no prizes for guessing that it was going to be another torrid 90 minutes for Trinidad and Tobagos women. Indeed, what transpired was an exhibition of total perfection versus embarrassing mediocrity. A contest between women who can play football properly: and those who cant. A match-up between well-built females whose athletic prowess allowed them to shoot, pass, head and control the ball just as well as any male: and a group that mostly struggled to perform some of these functions efficiently. The speed and slick passing of the American women left their counterparts just as bewildered as the Trinidadian fans in the crowd. Apparently shamed by what was happening to them, this countrys women attempted to save face when, six minutes from the end, they started to push the ball around in defence hoping to curb the onslaught. It did not work as the USA still managed to swarm the rearguard and claim a final strike, in the 90th minute.
But, in the end, it was more than just the result. That game in Hershey simply put another layer of cement on the fact that womens football in Trinidad and Tobago has never been taken seriously it has always been viewed as a joke and that we are all now the worse for it.
This is totally different from the United States where, from the 1970s, interested girls where taught how to play the game, alongside the boys, with whom they played. Because of an adequate physical education program, there emerged thousands of young women who were well built and who could dribble with the ball, score curling free-kicks and diving headers and make spectacular diving saves.
Yes, sure there has been organization of womens football here since 1981. Yes, there was a national womens league from 1986 to 1998 that was dominated by one team, Rossi Potentials. Okay, there has even been a secondary schools girls division that was instituted by the SSFL in 1987. But where has all this gotten us? The answer: absolutely nowhere.
The standard of the womens game here has always been very low. The players, while enthusiastic, are generally uncoordinated and give the opinion that they were not been properly coached in the basics from an early age. Had it not been for the success of the USA womens team in the 1990s, Trinidad and Tobagos players would probably be leaving locals with the false impression that women cannot play football. Now, everyone knows that women CAN play football: but are aware that there is still a problem in this country, where the local players still live up to the early stereotypes.
Delia De Silva, perhaps this countrys best-ever female player, is one of the few who belied the traditional views. While still a North Eastern College in Sangre Grande, she amazed everyone with her skill and grace on the ball qualities that earned her a scholarship to Florida International University in Miami, Florida.
Unfortunately, she is a rare exception to the general rule. Which is a shame because with this countrys established football culture, we ought to be producing many more like her. Instead, we are now faced with a 20 year gap with no means of bridging the divide.