Friday, September 7, 2007

WE SPORTS - The Warrior Path

By Shami Maharaj

So a little over a year has now past, since what I anticipate will always be one of the fondest times of my life; The Soca Warriors in Germany! Ahhh…. the good memories, the face painting, the red, white and black cape, the four Trini flags noisily flailing from every window of my car, and those overwhelming feelings of sensation and patriotism after tying Sweden in our first game. What a ride!

Of course the worst recollection will always be of that disgusting Eric Crouch yanking on Sancho’s locks, getting airborne and heading home England’s winning goal in the second game. Idiotic English robot!

In the third game against Paraguay, my perplexity lingers: why wasn’t Latas used to start? Or why wasn’t he used sooner?

Nonetheless, say wha’! It was de best of times.

I decided to do a little research on just what it would take to get back to dat scene. What are we up against to qualify for South Africa in 2010? So, I contacted Mr. Gino McKoy, Head Officer of the Soca Warriors fan club here in Canada, for some information.

Apparently, T&T’s battle the Goliaths weren’t impressive enough to prevent us dropping to 65th in FIFA’s world rankings. Wha’ is dat one? That ranking places us as the 7th best team within our own CONCACAF confederation, behind Mexico 10th,USA 14th,Costa Rica 50th,Canada 52nd, Panama 57th,and Honduras 63rd; but ahead of Guatemala 75th,Cuba 90th, Jamaica 93rd and the progressing Guyanese and Bajans at number 100 and 118th respectively
Thirty-one spots remain available for the World Cup finals, as host South Africa gains an automatic berth. Each of FIFA’s 6 confederations has been allotted a varying number of spots based on their region’s strength. Europe has been granted the most with 13 places, followed by Africa with 6,South America 4 1/2,Asia 4 ½ and Oceania ½. CONCACAF (North, Central American and Caribbean) has once again been allotted 3 ½ spots, and yes the ½ spot mystification and confusion rears its head again.

At the last Cup, T&T qualified through the ‘back door’ as some say, by winning the ½ spot (4th place in CONCACAF’S final or ‘hexagonal’ round), for the opportunity to battle the winner of Asia’s ½ spot, Bahrain, to consolidate the final entry. This time around it gets more difficult to achieve this as CONCACAF now has to clash with the victor of South America’s ½ spot. No disrespect to Bahrain, but qualifying through South America’s CONMEBOL group is unquestionably more thorny and challenging. This would be a welcome bridge to cross however, should we be fortunate enough to get there. There’s still the daunting assignment of having to ascend and weave through CONCACAF’s 34 improving competitors. Assuming the big three Mexico, USA and Costa Rica lock up the secure spots as projected, the Trini footballers would need to make use of that ‘½’ spot, and with Panama, Guatemala and my other favorite team Jamaica vying for the same position. It could indeed be thrilling.

So early in 2008 I’ll once again be venturing into enemy bars with the other die-hards, at all hours of the night, to support our beloved Warriors as they set out to make a mockery of FIFA’S bamboozling ranking system. Watch out Brazil… we coming for #1! Watch and see…

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