Trinidad & Tobago were crowned champions of the first-ever Caribbean futsal tournament after defeating Guyana 5-0 at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad on 23 April.
The eight-team tournament served as the Caribbean Football Union (CFU)s preliminary qualifying Trinidad & Tobago were crowned champions of the first-ever Caribbean futsal tournament after defeating Guyana 5-0 at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad on 23 April. The final was played before a partisan crowd of 2,000 and capped off a week of enthralling indoor action. Newly introduced to the five-a-side game, the two finalists converted individual style cultivated on sun-drenched streets into coherent winning ways.
The eight-team tournament served as the Caribbean Football Union (CFU)s preliminary qualifying competition for CONCACAFs final tournament, to be played in Costa Rica in July. Surinam, who defeated the Netherlands Antilles 9 -4 in the third-place match, will join the two finalists for a chance to qualify for the FIFA Futsal World Championship Chinese Taipei 2004. Only the top two finishers from Costa Rica will earn berths at the November world finals.
FIFAs helping hand
For most of the participating nations the tournament was a first-time venture into the futsal arena. In fact, the final was disputed between countries where futsal was introduced only months ago.
A 2003 FIFA initiative brought futsal coaching and refereeing courses to Port of Spain, Trinidad and Havana, Cuba. The courses, which had as one of their main objectives an increase in the number of Caribbean teams participating in the Zones futsal competitions, introduced five of the CFU tournaments eight participating countries to the five-a-side game and trained six of the eight referees.
For some, such as the Turks and Caicos Islands, who lost their three matches by a 28-3 aggregate score, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who fielded an U-20 team and lost by a total score of 18-4, the tournament was always going to be a learning experience. And the learning curve proved quite steep indeed.
Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles, who both participated in the CONCACAF final tournament for Guatemala 2000, approached the tournament with every intention of emerging champions. But futsal neophytes Trinidad & Tobago, champions of Caribbean football on eight occasions, and Guyana, both declared similar intent very early on.
Small goal street football a good intro
Informal, street football played in any available area - small goal as it is called due to the reduced size of the goal - is an important aspect of popular football culture in both finalist countries. Played with rules improvised by the players, depending on the numbers available, the size of the playing area or a variety of other peculiar factors, but always grounded in football law, small goal is a passionate 12-month past-time in both Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana.
The display of individual skill is a matter of personal pride for the player, key to building personal reputation in a community. Introduced to the specifics of futsal law and tactics by FIFA instructors, Perry Gautier and Nico Spreij, during a September 2003 FIFA course in Port of Spain, the national associations of both countries organiszed their first futsal tournaments early in 2004 and selected players for training. These players adapted quickly to the new requirements in the few months available to them and marched to the tournament final, both teams winning their group to qualify directly for San Jose.
An attacking emphasis
Attack was the order of the day in Trinidad, with an average of 9.4 goals per game. Surinam led the way with a tournament-high 36 goals, an average of 9 per match, while Guyana slammed 29 past their opponents to average 7.3 per match. By contrast, Trinidad and Tobago appeared intent on validating the old adage Attack wins games, but defence wins titles.. Scoring a comparatively low average of only 5.5 goals per match, they conceded just 7 goals - the least in the tournament - to average a stingy 1.8 goals against per match.
Champs Trinidad & Tobago were led by player of the tournament Kevin Peters. With spectacular skills, an eye for the calculated pass and a killer instinct in front of goal, Peters also finished the tournament as joint top scorer with 8 goals.
The tournament now over, the challenge facing the inaugural Caribbean champions, as well as the other new-comers to futsal, is to establish the game within their national association. Plans are afoot to create futsal leagues and associations across the Caribbean, even in countries that did not participate in the tournament. FIFA will continue to assist this development with the implementation, by its Port of Spain Development Office, of two more coaching and refereeing courses in Trinidad and Cuba during late 2004.