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Big year for Sport

Jan. 5th, 2001


TO say that 2001 is going to be a big year for football in Trinidad and Tobago is to be guilty of making a gigantic understatement.

Actually, it could be the greatest year in the history of the local game. A milestone has already been assured with the staging of what will be the biggest football event ever to hit this locale – the VI FIFA World Under-17 Championship. Fifteen international teams will converge here in August for what should be a memorable experience for lovers of entertaining football. Naturally, the welfare of the home team will become more and more of a concern as the tournament drifts nearer. But, one has to be honest in admitting that the bulk of local attention will be focussed on the exploits of the senior national team, which has another opportunity to qualify for the World Cup. Should this be attained by November 11, it is safe to say that the burgeoning annum will be as hallowed as 1498, 1962 and 1989.

Among the other football teams that will be competing for attention in 2001 are the Trinidad and Tobago under-20 side, which will be making its own bid to qualify for the World Youth Championship in Argentina, and W Connection: the club that, last year, marked the fastest rise to success in local football history by winning the Professional Football League and National FA Trophy double – in only its second season of existence. Can Connection actually capitalize on its achievement by repeating its double? Can the team also take the PFL Cup as well? The answers will all unfold over the next year, during which time we will see whether Malick can mark another period of glory by repeating as national secondary school champions.

It could also be an interesting year for cricket, particularly with an expanded Busta Cup tournament featuring the West Indies B and England A teams and, maybe, another overhaul of the senior West Indies team, ahead of the series against South Africa. That tour is significant in that it will be just the second official visit by South Africa to the Caribbean and should bring back memories of that famous one-off test match in Bridgetown in 1992. Furthermore, South Africa will arrive here as the world’s second best team and is unlikely to offer a respite to a West Indies unit that is currently being pummelled in Australia.

Another minor distraction from the football extravaganza could be the world track and field championships in Edmonton, where Ato Boldon is likely to lead a team featuring up and coming track stars such as Ato Modibo, Fana Ashby, and Nic Alexander. Attention will be especially focussed on Boldon as he seeks to regain his 200 metres title from rival (and training partner) Maurice Greene, win the 100 m and also break a couple of world records along the way. But the performances of young athletes will also be important and the displays at the Junior Carifta Games, World Youth Championships and Pan American Junior Championships should serve as an indication as to whether continued progress is being made at the formative level.

The same sentiment also applies to amateur boxing. The departure of Kirt Sinnette from the sport altogether only highlights the fact that there is now a whole new generation of fighters to nurture. How well equipped these boxers are for international competition will be tested next June with the staging of a Latin American tournament at Chaguaramas. Another upcoming competition, the CARICOM Basketball Championships, will offer us the chance to see whether the poor performance of the men’s team at last year’s tournament was just a one-off occurrence, due to poor preparation, or whether there really is a serious problem with local basketball.

These are just some of the things that will be occupying the attention of local sports fans this year. Of course, there is more action to come in other disciplines, such as hockey, rugby, powerboat racing and horse racing. Let us hope that everything runs smoothly in the coming twelve months, and that it really does turn out to be a memorable year for football!