It has taken more than a quarter century for Trinidad and Tobago to savour the sweet taste of revenge with Tuesday night’s 2-1 victory over arch footballing nemesis, the United States.
The goals by Shahdon Winchester (17th minute) and Alvin Jones (36th minute) rescued some of the dignity of the national team which had been lost over the course of a lacklustre campaign for next year’s World Cup finals in Russia.
Goal for goal, however, the victory is hardly enough to erase the burning memory of T&T’s November 19 defeat against the US in 1989 which put to sudden death the nation’s hope to finally make it onto football’s world stage.
Having lost the chance, it would take another 16 years for T&T to realise its World Cup ambition after Dennis Lawrence’s magical header against Bahrain catapulted the Soca Warriors into the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.
On Tuesday night, the stakes were nowhere as high for the national team, which has struggled throughout the 2018 World Cup campaign. By kick-off in the final match at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva, heart-broken fans had already deserted their team in droves.
By contrast with the teeming thousands that had turned up to support the team early in the campaign, Tuesday night’s match got little fanatic energy from the stands. It took only a scent of victory, however, to bring fans rushing back in an explosion of overdue joy as the final whistle was blown.
In defeating the US and blocking its path to Russia, the national squad has lifted afresh the hope for a future beyond Russia. Before all of this, however, the process of honest review and evaluation must be engaged.
The hard truth is that T&T football is exactly where thinking minds feared it would be after Germany 2006. Having worked the odds to get there, successive teams of football administrators have failed to lay down the infrastructure for sustained development of national football.
Even as the faces change, football’s legacy of highly centralised, ad hoc and arbitrary management has continued to promote an unstable and antagonistic environment which has taken a tremendous toll on our football talents.
Once again, we have been given the chance to learn that excellence cannot be achieved by cutting corners or by taking short cuts. There is no alternative to the systematic and strategic planning needed to lift our football from the doldrums in which it now languishes and put it on a path to Qatar 2022.
While one expects the T&T Football Association to conduct an exhaustive review of the now completed campaign, the TTFA cannot be left to review itself. If national football is to move forward on a solid basis, an independent review of the TTFA’s management of the campaign is required.
The T&T public has a vested interest in the future of our football. We are thankful that coach Lawrence and his team have given us something to smile about. Let’s celebrate today for tomorrow the work must begin anew.