Wed, Jun


BOGEY teams. They are things that can be done without.

Especially if you happen to be a side afflicted by such a team – or teams.

Indeed, there are some sides in international football that are actually fortunate to have only one such team. Such as Denmark, which always seemed to run into Spain during major competitions, and England, which has had its share of bad luck against Germany.

However, Trinidad and Tobago has proven that it is possible to run into a succession of dreaded opposition. In the 1960s and 1970s it was Suriname, the Dutch colony that was responsible for this country’s elimination from two World Cups, two Olympic Games and, yes, even the CFU Nations’ Cup! The following decade, it was the USA that had a hand in Trinidad and Tobago’s exits from the 1986 World Cup, the 1988 Olympic Games and, most notoriously, the 1990 World Cup.

The award for “Trinidad and Tobago’s Bogey Team of the 1990s” goes to Jamaica, hands down. While one can easily shrug off the losses incurred in the 1991 and 1998 Caribbean Cup finals, elimination from the 1994 World Cup was a bitter pill to swallow. If only because Trinidad and Tobago was much the better team at the time: Dwight Yorke had just enjoyed his breakthrough season at English First Division club, Aston Villa, scoring 17 goals; Russell Latapy and Leonson Lewis were both at Portuguese Second Division team, Academica Coimbra. Clint Marcelle was also plying his trade in Portugal. In addition, there were several other players who had an instrumental role in the 1990 World Cup-qualifying campaign, such as Hustson Charles and Kerry Jamerson. Jamaica, on the other hand, was a very physical team with a few decent players but, collectively, not on the same talent level as Trinidad and Tobago.

Nevertheless, everything just went wrong in that first round, first leg game in Port of Spain on July 5, 1992. Just nine days after beating the same opposition, on the same ground, in the Caribbean Cup final, Trinidad and Tobago suffered a reversal in fortunes and lost 2-1, with several players having forgettable afternoons. The period of five weeks preparation before the second leg was not enough for Trinidad and Tobago to climb out of the hole into which it had dropped and, on August 16, this country’s team could only manage a 1-1 draw at the National Stadium and lost the tie 3-2 on aggregate.

Since then, the two countries have enjoyed a rivalry that has been successful in mobilizing local fans behind the national team’s cause. Unfortunately, it is also a rivalry that Jamaica has had the better of for some time. Indeed, no one in the local community has been able to point out the fact that Trinidad and Tobago has developed a rather poor international record against the Jamaicans – with only five victories in the last 18 meetings, dating back to 1990. In addition, while many in the local community were making raves each time Trinidad and Tobago got a Caribbean Cup or friendly international win over Jamaica, the latter was steadily garnering greater accomplishments. Apart from the appearance at France ’98, Jamaica also has two third-place finishes at the Gold Cup.

This is the sobering reality: that Trinidad and Tobago has found itself in the position of having to look up to the Jamaicans. Wednesday’s game offers a great opportunity for this country’s national team to try and turn things around. In the circumstances, there is no other choice.