The manager and players of the Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Under 20 team broke into tears as their emotions overwhelmed them at their welcome home reception ceremony for the team at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre yesterday.
But Minister of Sports Anil Roberts, Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) president Raymond Tim Kee, and top female field athlete Cleopatra Borel all praised the team’s effort and encouraged them to prepare for their next opportunities.
Fresh from their fourth place finish in the FIFA Under-20 World Cup qualifying tournament in the Cayman Islands, the memories and emotions of their near miss were also raw.
Manager of the women’s team Lyndell Hoyte-Sanchez had to be propped up by Trinidad and Tobago Women’s Football president Sharon O’Brien, as her knees buckled and tears flowed from her eyes.
“It was a long, long, road. We had some really, really rough roads, there were obstacles on the way we were able to surpass and move forward,” she said adding that Minister Roberts took personal interest in the team by coming out every Saturday morning to train and motivate them.
Hoyte-Sanchez took another break to collect herself.
“We knew before (we left) that Costa Rica was the game of our lives and I told the girls this is going to be the game of their lives, the hardest game they will ever have to play in their life. We went out there, stuck to the plan and I just don’t know what happened. We had 85 minutes of glory, we saw ourselves in Canada and the plane just turned around and brought us back home.”
T&T led 3-2 before the Costa Ricans got their game-changing late equaliser.
She continued: “ We wanted to do this so bad for the country and also to lift (the profile of) women’s football in T&T and the Caribbean. It is hard, sometimes we feel like we let the country down,” Hoyte-Sanchez said in between sobs.
Still, the manager congratulated her girls for their game effort and wished the national senior team headed by skipper May Lee Attin-Johnson, success in their campaign to qualify for the 2015 World Cup.
Borel related her sense of disappointment when she had a failed 2008 Beijing Olympics campaign and burst into tears during a train ride.
“From that moment I knew I was in it for the long run,” she said. “In life your greatest disappointment in sport, your greatest disappointment in life can turn out to be your greatest source of motivation.”
Tim Kee said he was extremely proud of the team who he said were pioneers in terms of T&T women’s World Cup qualifying efforts.
“You demonstrated grit, guts and commitment and all the other attributes to earn the right to be referred to as winners,” the Mayor of Port of Spain said.
Roberts said the Under 20 women were successes before they started because of their commitment to discipline, dedication and excellence. The D’Abadie/O’Meara MP said: “You were successful because you dared to take a risk and put your heart and soul into something, and that is a brilliant thing.”
Roberts said the girls would qualify for future World Cups but their efforts and hard work at the Concacaf tournament would be remembered forever.
World Champion 400 metres hurdler Jehue Gordon and former Strike Squad captain Clayton Morris and teammate Leonson Lewis were also on hand to give encouragement.