By TERENCE HILTON CLARKE
IT has become very difficult
to be surprised at things like Trinidad and Tobago failing in its World
Youth Championship qualifying group.
After all, this is the fifth,
straight time that this country has faltered in its bid for a spot in
the global under-20 tournament – and considering that Trinidad and Tobago
has only qualified for one competition in its history (Portugal ’91),
it really means twelve failures in 13 attempts, overall, since the World
Youth Championship was instituted in 1977.
But, that is not the only
reason for the lack of alarm.
It also had to do with the
widespread knowledge that the home side was simply not prepared to play
on the same field with teams like Costa Rica and the USA.
Having played no games at
this level since the previous world championship qualifiers in August
1998, the current Trinidad and Tobago squad was formed during 2000,
but did not kick a ball in an international match until a brief Central
American tour in January. Nothing happened after that until early March,
when the team participated in a competition involving PFL clubs, W Connection,
Joe Public and San Juan Jabloteh – losing all three games.
The United States team,
on the other hand, entered the group, having participated in two international
tournaments in 2000: the Enschede Tournament in the Netherlands, in
which the USA placed third and the Monthey Tournament in Switzerland
(second place). The United States will next participate in the prestigious
Toulon Tournament in France, before making the trip to Argentina for
the World Youth Championship.
It was the exact same story
in 1998, when Trinidad and Tobago also hosted in of two final round
qualifying groups: a well-prepared US team came here and dominated proceedings.
Only Costa Rica, via a 1-1 was strong enough to match the Americans,
who went on to defeat Canada 5-1 and Trinidad and Tobago 6-1.
This time around, Trinidad
and Tobago succumbed 5-1 to a USA selection that included several players
that helped their country to fourth-place at the 1999 World Under-17
Championship in New Zealand: including Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley,
who were acclaimed among the most outstanding players in that tournament.
Apart from Donovan and Beasley, there are seven other players in the
US under-20 pool attached to professional clubs in the MLS and Europe.
The Trinidad and Tobago
team did have one player connected to a European club (Sean Cooper of
Portuguese side Tirsense), plus ten with PFL teams. However, of these,
only a few such as Josh Johnson (San Juan Jabloteh) have gotten significant
opportunities with their clubs, so far. In any case, let’s be honest,
the standard of competition in the PFL is not exactly on par with that
of the German Bundesliga, where Donovan and teammate Conor Casey are
More importantly, apart
from exposure, the Trinidad and Tobago players also lacked the technique
and fitness level of their Costa Rican and American counterparts. In
both games the opponents were able to march through Trinidad and Tobago’s
defence at will and demonstrated superior passing. In the end, home
advantage was simply not enough and Trinidad and Tobago ended the group
with a solitary point, gained from the 0-0 draw with Guatemala. By this
time, the only thing that mattered was the condition of Marvin Lee,
who was still in critical condition in hospital, following a horrific
injury incurred in the game against the USA.
So, though the Trinidad
and Tobago players actually tried their best at times, it was simply
not enough. The other sides were just too well prepared, too much better
and too well developed. It is a story that has become very familiar.
Several Trinidad and Tobago sides have endured the same ritual and,
if nothing is done to change things, several more sides will also fall
by the wayside.
It seems that people have
grown accustomed to this tale. Hence why, outside of those very committed
fans that went to the Centre of Excellence, many others appeared to
be not the slightest bit interested. Perhaps very aware of what the
situation is. Perhaps knowing that Trinidad and Tobago’s chances were
never very good.
Perhaps no longer caring.