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Let's avoid madness of '89

By TERENCE HILTON CLARKE  
(c)copyright

August 25 2000  

FORGET about the status of last week's opponents, the fact of the matter is that the Trinidad and Tobago national team, seemingly in a crisis two months ago, is now on a hot streak of form.

What Ian Porterfield's team did to Panama at the Queen's Park Oval was simply what it should have done to the likes of the Netherlands Antilles, the Dominican Republic and even Haiti: dominate and destroy a weak opponent. It had been explained before that the Panamanians did possess a certain degree of tenacity, which was demonstrated in the games against Mexico and Canada. However, this strength was merely a veneer that masked the many weaknesses that lay underneath and it was postulated that Trinidad and Tobago, should it continue playing at a high level should be able to get a full six points from both games against Panama.

Which means, of course, that the job is only partially done. Trinidad and Tobago is now in a comfortable position with nine points. One train of thought is that this should be enough to get into the next round. However, the fact is that this is not a mathematical certainty and that there are still three more games to go in this group, from which Trinidad and Tobago is obliged to continue racking up its points total. Again, the aim should be to get another victory against Panama, as well as at least a point off of Canada. Not surprisingly, there does not seem to be a whole lot of people predicting great things for Mexico City. But, with Trinidad and Tobago likely to meet Mexico in the final round - should this country qualify for this stage - it is important that Trinidad and Tobago prove that it can be competitive at the Azteca Stadium.

Meanwhile, the burgeoning support for team is just what the doctor ordered. The national team needs to be bouyed by the knowledge that it has the support of the people of Trinidad and Tobago behind it. This being said, it is important that things do not get out of hand like they did eleven years ago. In this regard, one must respect coach Porterfield's decision to have closed training sessions: a marked contrast to the public charades that were permitted in 1989. Corporate support for the World Cup-qualifying effort is a little more healthy than it was a couple months ago, with Carib re-emerging onto the local football scene as the national team's most ubiquitous backer.

There is only one disturbing trend from 1989 that I would like to see killed soon. This is the popular sentiment that a World Cup place is all but guaranteed for the Trinidad and Tobago national team. While this is good from a motivational standpoint, it is dangerous when one considers the destructive effect it most likely had on the team before that final game against the USA during the 1990 World Cup campaign.

It is the task of the media to try and keep things in check - something that it failed to do back then. The fact is that Trinidad and Tobago still has more hurdles to cross before the "Big Dance" and it is up to the press to keep everyone aware of the complicated tack assigned to Porterfield and his team.
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