There are not many countries who can boast of having their national football teams qualify for World Cup finals.
When we think of the hugely populated countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Venezuela, India, Pakistan and New Zealand to name a few, and realise they have not been able to make their way into the finals of Fifa’s World Cup tournament, it allows us to appreciate even more the importance of supporting our national U-20 football squad.
In a country where valuable moments are forgotten very quickly, the memories of Bertille St Clair’s U-20 squad qualifying for the Fifa World championships final in Portugal in 1991, are hardly ever referred to in the form of appreciation, although this event was really the birth of Dwight Yorke’s career, together with names like Michael Mc Comie and Angus Eve, both of whom are still giving service to the game.
Some do not even know that Kenwyne Jones was a product of our U-17 squad when we hosted the World Youth Championships in 2001. It was only two years ago that a young Mayaro resident Leston Paul, led our U-17 team to the finals in Korea, a feat which emanated from four previous years of development, which extracted the best young players from across the country and were moulded into a new breed of young footballers whose performance off the field was upstaged by a new discipline and attitude which seemed to have been lost somewhere in the recent past. It was pleasing to hear a comment from one of the analysts in Korea, who described that squad as the most disciplined and well behaved bunch of young men in the tournament.
It seems as though our development must be accompanied by business on and off the field, as opposed to the matured countries who dealt with football progress on the field only after their established clubs nurtured their players in terms of discipline and commitment to the cause. Leston Paul is again at the helm of the young Soca Warriors and with 12 of his teammates, joining another seven others, they will take the country’s flag through a number of countries on their way to Egypt.
It has begun in England where they were already to identify on the field as having some qualitative players in their friendly match against Sheffield United Reserves, which Robert Primus and Luc Rochford ensured victory. No doubt, the experience of being present at Saturday’s EPL fixture between Manchester united versus Arsenal, thanks to Jack Warner, will not only remain a memory for the young men, but it will expose them to an atmosphere created by 80,000 persons shouting their hearts out for victory for their team, similar to what they can expect in Alexandria when they oppose Egypt on September 24.
Turkey and Cyprus can get ready for the representatives of our twin Island state to provide the unknown quality of play and the exciting charisma which are imbedded into the souls of these young ambassadors. They may not carry names like Yorke, Latapy, Edwards, or Jones, but I expect that they will try to cast their own images, much of which will determine whether or not they will make it to the big clubs of the football world. I have already had clubs enquiring about the players and their ability, so that they will know in advance the players they may be interested in approaching for club contracts.
For the country, this exposure is more beneficial than front page crime reports on our local newspapers. This could be the beginning of the future of some young men who may produce a new level of lifestyle which can improve the lives of their families in this country. It is no secret that our sport has been the way of life for a number of our young talented ones, and it will not surprise me if names like Leston Paul, Jamal Clarence, Akeem Adams, and the young Tobago born Cyrus, to name a few, will be placed alongside others with similar motives like Renny Quow, Jehue Gordon, Josanne Lucas and Garvin Nero. What they need is your moral support and who knows how far they will take this blessed country.