It was billed as the big return of international football to local shores in the aftermath of the painstaking defeat to the United States in the 1990 World Cup qualifier less than 9 months earlier, which broke the hearts of local fans.
“Shell Cup 90 fever hits Trinidad” a headline read in the Jamaica Gleaner.
"They think it's no big thing. Most Trinidadians feel their footballers should be able to take care of all the other teams. After November 19 when the team lost to the USA in the World Cup play-off game, Trinidadians felt the Caribbean Championship is not as strong a tournament for the national team,” said then journalist, the late Dave Lamy.
There was no Russell Latapy, Dwight Yorke or Leonson Lewis in the side as the trio had taken up contracts on Portugal and England. Also missing from the squad was Marvin Faustin
“Competition banners, placed all along the route from Piarco Airport to downtown Port of Spain, tell a story of a country, in the mood for, and well prepared to take on Caribbean football's number one tournament. Little boys in the streets brighten the surroundings with national team jerseys of Trinidad and Tobago.”
“In almost every building one enters, there is talk of the Shell Cup finals — whether it is the apparent "setback" to the National team due to the absence of their four top players — forwards Leonson Lewis and Dwight Yorke, midfielder Russell Latapy and defender Marvin Faustin, or the big question of whether or not upsets will be the order of the day, as happened in the 1990 World Cup,” the newspaper stated.
The 1991 Shell Cup Squad in Jamaica. T&T finished runners up to the host nation that year
T&T easily dispatched Grenada 5-0 in the opener on Sunday July 22nd with a double from Peter Alfred and Larry Joseph and one from Paul Elliot Allen.
T&T coach Edgar Vidale described the victory as "great and one the whole country will be proud of."
"We played to according to the team plan. The boys stuck to the strategy we thought would be good enough to beat Grenada. I had seen them against Suriname and was able to devise a plan to counter their style. The result makes me proud of the boys. They kept their composure in the first half and concentrated well throughout the session."
Team captain Clayton Morris described the victory as "the start of another journey."
"We tried last year to reach the World Cup finals but just didn't do it," he said.
The following was written by Morris for Pushinglimits.net
The biggest Day after November 19th
By Clayton Morris
Two dates and events that will forever be in my memory, November 19th 1989 and July 27th 1990. They both have significant meaning to me as a citizen and also as leader of the Trinidad and Tobago Men’s National Football Team on both occasions.
This day July 27th is also the birthday of my eldest brother Harold “Mau” Morris who unfortunately passed away on the 26th November 2016. (Happy Birthday big brother continue to rest in peace).
Resuming national duties after the disappointing result on November 19th 1989 was kind of mix feelings and emotions for me in that here we were preparing for the defence of the Shell Caribbean Cup under the supervision of Edgar Vidale and not Everald Gally Cummings with whom we should have been with at 1990 World Cup finals in Italy around the same period. While the Shell Cup was now the stage for our international appearances, it certainly was no comparison to Italia 1990.
This Shell Cup however was the ideal opportunity to get new and younger players as my memory serves me Shaka Hislop one of the reserve Goalkeepers, Angus Eve, Dexter Cyrus and Alvin Thomas into the national senior team for the first time. In the 5-0 victory in the first game versus Grenada in this tournament we showed great potential to demolish all comers.
The preparation for this tournament started about four months before with very serious and tough physical fitness under trainer Walcott. I remember we played a practice game in the Police Barracks versus Caledonia AIA two days before the tournament kicked off. This game gave coach Vidale the ideal opportunity to see what to expect from his charges going into the first game. It prompted the AIA Coach at the time Jamal Shabazz to request a rematch. But this didn’t happen as you all know what transpired that week.
All eight teams for this tournament were housed at Cascadia Hotel in St Ann’s “my home town”. This was very trying and testing times for me as captain and citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. After the soldiers on the Trinidad and Tobago national team were called in to duty, six of them, and the other players whose family members were able to provide transport to get to home, I was the only Trinidadian left back at the hotel with the visiting teams. During this period I had to provide mediation on countless occasions as the players from the respective teams looked for ways to ease their frustration on each other. They were all forced to remain throughout the ordeal until flights could take them out of the country.
This team in 1990 was special in that without some of the overseas based professionals Russell Latapy and Dwight Yorke, we had some players hungry and determine to get on the final squad for the Concacaf Gold Cup that year . They were determined to give it their all to make the final cut. And this was the first time the Gold Cup was being staged.
The preparation for the game against Jamaica was very positive as we knew that this was the team that would give us a tough physical battle and we could not think of taking them lightly. We went through our paces as normal and were ready to give an excellent performance as we did versus Grenada. Unfortunately the situation changed as we were all relaxed in the National Stadium watching the encounter between Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
We all knew what was taking place in the country at the time. I recall hearing a loud noise and saw smoke coming from the area of the Red House in Port of Spain. I said to my teammates that is the Police Headquarters is on fire. Then we saw soldiers armed with machine guns running around the Muslim compound behind the Stadium.
This situation did have great concerns on players mentally and football and going out on the field to play a football game under these conditions were the last thing on our minds. History have it we did play the game as for security reasons it was the best option as persons who attended the football game were safer there at that point in time. The result was a 0-0 draw but I think the memories of that day are there for reasons other than football. The events of July 1990 has brought total awareness to this country in that security became more prevalent as never before in my humble view.
What I can say is there were eleven men on the field that evening at the national stadium that were carrying the hopes of a nation for another cause and I stand today commending them for their efforts. Unfortunately we could not go onto contest the final against Martinique on July 29th which I felt confident we would have been able to secure a victory and another Shell Cup title for our country.
To those families who lost love ones during that time, May God continue to give your strength. I know it’s very tough on you when this time comes around. Keep the faith, “God is Love”