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Antonee Robinson #5 of U.S. Men's National Team goes against Shannon Gomez #14 of Trinidad and Tobago on a head in the first half during the CONCACAF Nations League Quarterfinal Round leg 1 match at Q2 stadium on November 16, 2023 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Cortes/Getty Images)

Don’t be misled by the headline.

I can’t see the national side overcoming the 3-0 deficit against the United States at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Port of Spain, to qualify directly for next year’s Copa America.

However this reference to a fighting chance has two dimensions today: what the first game in Texas showed us about Trinidad and Tobago football, and why it is up to the majority of nominal adults here to really behave like mature adults and do what that maturity requires us to do in creating better—not easier, better—opportunities for the generations which follow us.

Look, I was breaksing for the sort of cut-tail on Thursday night in Austin that would have surpassed the 6-0, 7-0 and 6-0 scorelines of the last three senior men’s international encounters with the Americans. Having finally located the coverage almost 15 minutes late, it was more than a pleasant surprise to see that we weren’t already a goal or two behind.

Then came the sending off of Noah Powder eight minutes before halftime, and as much as the determination of the entire squad to defy the heavily-favoured home side had been admirable up to that point, they were bound to capitulate at the start of the second half. Yet they kept on fighting, and while the Yanks started to find more openings to create the scoring opportunities which they couldn’t in the first half, this much-criticised squad was still trying desperately to hang on.

Well, they didn’t and while those three goals in the final nine minutes could be attributed to the inevitable fatigue of ten players taking on 11 for almost an hour, it has to be noted again that giving up possession so easily and so often, with or without a full-strength side, only puts increasing pressure on a defence that has always been suspect and lacks the regular high-level experience which would make them far more accomplished in such demanding roles.

Yet if there is despair, it’s not because Trinidad and Tobago looked completely out of their depth. Nor is it because the Copa America qualification dream is over as there will still be a chance for two of the losing quarter-finalists from this CONCACAF Nations League to get to the continental event in 2024.

No the despair is that we are bound to squander this latest chance to build something substantial in national football, not just to win trophies and titles or World Cup qualifications but to establish a culture of discipline, productivity and excellence across the board via one element of sport.

Why the negativity, you ask? Because, boss, this is what we do and do extremely well. Every time we achieve something meaningful, like actually getting to the World Cup in 2006, we mess it up. And not just partially mess it up but completely screw up everything to the point where we lose time and sabotage youthful aspirations as the unfailingly corrupt manipulators bury their snouts in the trough when, if they possessed of any semblance of integrity, they would be burying their hands deeper in the dirt to continue the process of proper cultivation.

Tonight’s game comes 34 years and a day after the single most momentous sporting occasion on home soil and look at what transpired after that 1-0 loss which qualified the Americans for their first World Cup finals in 40 years. If you don’t know go and find out. I don’t have the space. Suffice to say that corruption is so entwined in our DNA that there are many who saw and still see the deliberate over-selling of tickets for November 19, 1989, apparently to raise revenue for the TTFA, as a justifiable act of patriotism.

And that despair for our young people grows ever deeper when you realise that so many of them just want to experience the delight of playing sport.

Yesterday, at the home ground of the Aranjuez Sports Club we had the usual turnout of eager pre-teen footballers for the Sunday morning coaching clinic when we were anticipating an almost complete no-show because parents especially would have wanted to stay at home to watch the cricket World Cup final.

It was even more heartening to see two teams of young cricketers doing what had to be done to get a match underway at the same venue. When you thought they would have been preoccupied with events in Ahmedabad, they were rolling the pitch and marking the creases themselves so that within minutes of the football coaching clinic wrapping up at 10.30 am, the first ball was being bowled even as Travis Head was powering Australia past hosts India to a comprehensive sixth World Cup success almost half a world away.

Our youth deserve that fighting chance, notwithstanding our very best efforts at continuously destroying their dreams.

SOURCE: T&T Express