Friday, December 15, 2017

No quiet ending


HUNTING GOALS: Trinidad and Tobago striker Devorn Jorsling, left, tracks Martinique's Stanley Anglio during their 2012 Caribbean Cup semi-final last Friday at Antigua Recreation Ground. The "Soca Warriors" won that match 1-0 on kicks from the penalty mark after extra time saw them locked at 1-1. But T&T lost the final to Cuba 1-0 when they conceded in extra time. —Photo: IAN PRESCOTT

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Twenty-twelve is not going quietly.

Even in an Olympic year that Keshorn Walcott had already blazed with gold, and one in which the West Indies cricket team became world champions in something for the first time in eight years, noteworthy things in sport were still taking place as we entered the closing three weeks of the year.

I'll let some of the newsmakers themselves tell you about it.

"We must be able to face the reality that our back is against the wall and we got to come out fighting. It is not a great situation that we in, but great teams become great because they are able to come out of tight and difficult situations."

T&T joint head coach Jamaal Shabazz following the 2-0 defeat to hosts Antigua-Barbuda in the group phase

of the Caribbean Cup last week.

"We got the miracle!.. We need to get more funding, we need to work, we need to play more games...Trinidad and Tobago need to play catch-up now. The other teams seem to be a step ahead of us. We need to get back to what we know we can do."

T&T joint head coach Hutson Charles after Haiti beat Antigua 1-0 to send the Soca Warriors into the semi-finals.

"God is good. I think this final is ours on Sunday...We feel elated. We are in the final after five years. This is a best feeling."

Soca Warriors midfielder Densill Theobald after the 5-4 semi-final penalty shootout victory over Martinique.

"You know how far we come from...You know the trials and tribulations the Trinidad and Tobago team went through. To reach this far in the tournament is a big achievement for us."

Hutson Charles after the

semi-final against Martinique.

Blows that don't break the back, will simply strength us going forward in the future. We are disappointed in the loss, but still have a good start for the future. We will take the positives out of it that we worked hard. We have a bunch of players who are certainly very committed to the national programme, and certainly a group based on their age, we can build upon."

Jamaal Shabazz after the Caribbean Cup final loss in extra time to Cuba.

"I had been fourth and fifth too many times in my career. It was especially vindicating tonight for me, after this whole year with the Olympics, World Cup, to come here and cap it off with a World Championship medal just like I said I wanted to.

Unfortunately I was not able to clinch one in the 50m freestyle, missing by .04, leaving me absolutely gutted, so there was extra pressure on me to win a medal tonight, and I am very proud of myself if I do say so for the way I kept fighting back,"

George Bovell III on his FINA World Short Course Championship

100IM bronze medal

I didn't think any words from me could capture the roller coaster of emotions that the national football team and the country's most celebrated swimmer went through last week through to Sunday.

The outcomes were contrasting of course, the Soca Warriors ultimately failing to win a ninth Caribbean Cup, but Bovell, in his last big meet of the year landing the World medal he failed to get at the Olympics August gone.

For both the swimmer and the footballers, though, this was a week to remember.

Try, for instance, to put yourself in the boots of Soca Warriors skipper Jan-Michael Williams, or Theobald, or Richard Roy, or Ataullah Guerra or any of the others in the squad after they were beaten by the Antiguans.

You playing for a team that couldn't beat Guyana last year and get even to the semi-finals of qualifying for the CONCACAF phase of World Cup 2014 qualification. The Government stops giving your Federation money for a while and the team scrambling to get to tournaments. You manage to get to the Caribbean Cup, but the public saying the side is boo and now Antigua-Barbuda beat you for only the second time in history. To advance out of the group to the semi-finals, you have to win your last match against the Dominican Republic and hope Haiti beat Antigua. Imagine the talk waiting for those players if they have to come back home early.

So when T&T did the business against the DR and Haiti put Antigua-Barbuda out, and T&T into both the semis and the CONCACAF Gold Cup, you could understand why it was time to jump up for the players and staff watching on in the Antigua Recreation Ground.

Those fellows had been given a chance to redeem themselves. And has happened with so many teams in tournaments, the close call in qualifying for the next stage produced a spirited showing next time out, Roy grabbing a last-gasp equaliser against Martinique in the semis to push the match into extra time and then a penalty shootout, where skipper Williams makes the big save on Martinique's fifth spot kick. T&T in the final when they could have been home long time.

Imagine the scene in the dressing room and the hotel afterwards. Feel the blood surging through the veins of the players, the fists clenched, the smiles uncontrolled. "We showing dem!" you could almost hear them telling each other. "Best feeling" indeed.

I could see Shabazz plopping down on a bench in relief, sweat pouring down his face; thinking what it would mean for these boys to go all the way after coming from nowhere.

And Charles the soldier, surviving another battle, standing there watching his players and wondering if they all will get the help they need to take the football further. He was still thinking those thoughts when the group stood by waiting for Cuba to collect the Caribbean Cup Sunday night. Also-rans often don't get remembered. But in this delicate stage in the history of T&T football, Sunday's defeat may actually be the start of something better.

The story of George Bovell this year certainly proves how defeat can lead to victory. On the whole, one can argue  that 2012 was his finest in swimming overall.  But  he could not have contemplated that back in August when he was one from last in the 50 metres freestyle Olympic final in London.

Things went wrong at the perfectly wrong time for that swim. But who in T&T was willing to hear excuses? The way the talk went, it was time to say thanks to big George and for him to pack it up.

But proud competitor that he is, and knowing deep down that he had good races still left in him; Bovell got back in the pool. Imagine just for a minute however, the courage that took; the hurt he had to push away just to start training all over again.

But the result of that courage has been 16 medals at the World Cup series last month and now, the country's first bit of precious metal at a World Championships in swimming. His Athens Olympic bronze now has good company.

And he has given followers of sport here another reason to love it.

Yeah man, George, thanks Warriors.