Playing football at a professional level is what most young players aspire to, playing at a World Cup is what they consider the pinnacle of everything they set out to do. It is a dream held by many but achieved by a few.
Brent Sancho represents one such player who would have dreamt both dreams and achieved them both.
The former national was known for his stout defending and tough tackles. A stalwart of Trinidad and Tobago’s team that qualified for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the 'Soca Warrior' shared some of his experiences with the Express.
“I think without a doubt I’ve had a very good professional footballing career. I’ve been able to play at the highest level in some of the international leagues and also to be able to participate in the FIFA World Cup. It’s something that a lot of players try to aspire to so I’ve have been very fortunate in my career.''
Sancho said he does not believe he was necessarily blessed with the greatest amount of talent but he made up for it in his passion and commitment to the sport as well as the underlying desire to be successful on the pitch and take his career to another level in the sport.
“I’ve always wanted to play football at the highest level and when I started playing at an early age like most kids I dreamt about playing football at a World Cup and being able to play in some of the top leagues in the world. I’ve been able to accomplish both and as I said when you start playing you want to be successful, you want to win trophies,” adding he was able to win at the highest level in Trinidad, at the collegiate level and even at the professional level.
“When you look back at football, I think a lot of your career is judged on what you have achieved and when I look back at my career I think I’ve achieved a lot. It’s possible I could have achieved more but I still believe I’ve been quite successful in what I’ve done and so I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to achieve as a player.
Sancho, who belongs to an elite group of nationals to grace a World Cup stage, looked back at that historic moment.
“I think when you look back at the World Cup it was an absolute surreal experience as being there was a little bit different because you’re so focused on the job at hand and trying to perform and do the right things for the team that it became more of a sporting exercise rather than something that was of great magnitude.
“The focus was on playing the game and not necessarily absorbing the actual experience, so I think looking back at it and seeing videos and different postings about it gives you goose bumps to know that you were part of such an amazing experience.''
When asked what thoughts occupied his mind when the team took the field against Sweden for T&T’s first ever World Cup match, Sancho said it’s the one thing that stuck in his mind.
“I could remember walking out on the field and thinking about the stuff we spoke about in the team huddle before the game, in particular, the fact that we did not want to concede an early goal. And then lining up for the national anthem and for some strange reason when the anthem was being played I was able to catch the faces of my family and to see the look of how proud they were. I think it’s a memory that will live with me forever.”
He admitted that despite the fact he worked hard during the game it was a collective effort. “I think the draw against Sweden was a phenomenal achievement, collectively as a group. When you look back at the game we were like a bunch of players who did not and refused to lose a football match. And we did everything in our power, whether it was throwing our bodies on the line or making last-ditched tackles, we did everything in our power to make sure the Swedes didn’t score.
Sancho, who said it became even more difficult when Avery John was sent off, recalled he kept looking up at the clock and squeezing every second out of it knowing that the team was that much closer to creating history. “We just felt like we had to do everything in our power to ensure that when the clock hit 90 minutes the score remained 0-0.
Next, Sancho spoke a bit about what is deemed the Peter Crouch moment in the game against England. “I know the incident with Peter Crouch is the most famous question, and I can distinctly remember when it happened.
“I recalled going up for the ball and being fouled and when I landed on the ground I looked across at the referee and he looked at me as if to say, you know like when our eyes met, he kind of subliminally said to me there’s no way I making that call for you, you’re playing for little Trinidad and this is big England.
“Deep down I knew then he was never going to make that call but obviously it was disappointing for us especially coming so far along in the game and holding England, and not just holding because we had a couple of opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net. So it was a disappointing result for us.”
And despite T&T exiting the World Cup without winning a match Sancho rates the team’s performance as being very good. “We never really got the opportunity to show our offensive flair and our ability moving forward, but I think we showed a lot of resilience. And obviously we were disappointed not to have won a World Cup match but at the end of the day we showed a level of togetherness that was parallel to any of the top teams in the World Cup at that point in time.
“We held our own and in some departments we even matched one or two teams for different periods of the game and for me that in itself is an achievement for such a tiny island to play against three of the bigger footballing nations in the world and perform as we did,” Sancho said.
Sancho said the most disappointing moment for him at the World Cup was when it ended. “We prepared very well for it and for it to end so quickly after three matches was a bit of a disappointment because we were really focused on trying to push forward and getting out of the group.”
However, T&T’s early exit was supplemented by his most cherished moment. “Being able to spend time with family and having all of them there and observing how they felt being at a World Cup was the most cherished moment for me. It was a really special moment to have everybody there and to know that they all came there to support me and that I was well supported and that their voices were heard. Having family around was the best thing to happen for me during the World Cup,” he ended.