On the 19th of November 1989 T&T were "one point" away from going to the finals in Italy and needed only a draw at home against the Americans in their last World Cup qualifier. Unfortunately, T&T were beaten 1-0 by a Paul Caligiuri’s goal and as a result they lost their chance of qualifying for the 1990 World Cup Finals. It turned out to be a day the local fans would never forget.
Some 35,000 fans decked out in the “Red Stadium” were left in disbelief at the Hasley Crawford Stadium. Knowing that all the T&T team (known as the “Strike Squad” in those days) needed were a tie that would have taken them through to Italy. The result haunted T&T football supporters for some 16 years, praying that one day T&T will qualify for a World Cup finals and take away some of that pain and tears they felt on that day.
Even up till this day our beloved Strike Squad still play together. Many stars from that team included, team captain Clayton Morris, Michael Maurice, Leonson Lewis, Kerry Jamerson, Hutson Charles, Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and Philbert Jones, to name a few.
First real chance.
T&T's first real chance of ever qualifying for a World Cup finals came in 1973 when they got cheated out of competition because of bad referring that eliminated T&T from going to the finals in West Germany 1974. They topped host Haiti 5-2 only for the El Salvadorian referee to disallow 4 T&T goals and in the process Haiti went through to the finals. To this day some of the older heads in T&T would say that the 1973 team was the best ever T&T squad to grace our shores.
Talents such as Warren Archibald, Everald Cumming, Steve David, Selris Feigaro, the late Russell Tesheira, Selwyn Murren and Kelvin Barclay among others was breathtaking to watch because of their natural talent and the excitement they displayed on the field.
History in the making.
Now some 32 years later T&T will once again join the race to the finals of the 2006 World Cup, ironically, this time around the destination will once again be, Germany !!
....Well I have news for you... T&T have reached the final round of World Cup qualification on 4 occasions: 1973, 1989, 2001 and 2005. They took it even further in 2005 when actually qualified for the first time in history for a senior World Cup finals. T&T beat Bahrain 2-1 on aggregate in a play-off series to book their first World Cup Finals place at the 11th attempt since 1966... Germany 2006, ladies and gentlemen put your hands together ...for" ... the Soca Warriors.
Praise for Leo Beenhakker.
In a sport which thrives on unpredictability, however, it was left to Trinidad and Tobago to defy the odds. Nobody gave the local lads any hope, but there can be no denying that they earned their place, and as some Trinis would say “fair and square”.
Leo Beenhakker's, an experienced Dutch coach arrived in T&T May 2005 to take over the Soca Warriors team, mind you, at the time T&T qualifying hopes were hanging by a single thread and led them to a hard-fought play-off win over Bahrain.
With the tie delicately poised at 1-1 after the first leg in Port of Spain, the Soca Warriors showed nerves of steel to snatch the 1-0 away win to Bahrain that saw them reach their first ever FIFA World Cup finals. There are no words that can describe coach Leo Beenhakker's accomplishment, he should go down in the history books for T&T as the greatest ever coach to grace our beautiful shores.
It was also noted that head coach Leo Beenhakker will participate in a World Cup for the second time after leading Holland in 1990. And for the first time ever at a World Cup, Germany 2006 will feature four Dutch coaches, Leo Beenhakker (T&T), Guus Hiddink (Australia), Dick Advocaat (Korea Republic) and Marco Van Basten (Netherlands).
A true leader.
Only 16 on the "Red Day" (see November 19 1989) and still a school boy, Yorke must had felt after the game against USA that his career has ended before it even started. The heart broken striker at the time must had felt "what next". Well, Yorke did pull through and was eventually rated as one of the greatest strikers in the World during his time at Manchester United.
Now this summer's tournament will give the country's best ever player and probably CONCACAF most successful professional club player, captain Dwight Yorke the chance to hang up his boots in style. Yorke, having accomplished many medals in his career with clubs Aston Villa and mainly Manchester United will relish the chance to show the World that he has done it all.
The same can be said for the team's creative genius Russell Latapy who was also a member of the famous 1989 Strike Squad. At 37 Latapy must have thought that his chance to strut his stuff alongside the global elite had gone. But some credit must be given to his team-mate and long time pal Dwight Yorke who persuaded him to come out of retirement to help T&T qualify for the World Cup. Latapy accepted the offer and proudly said he have no regrets in his decision. He will now get a chance to show his God given talent to the World and let them know that there is only one “Little Magician“. Yes, he do exist.
As for Stern John, the top scorer with 12 goals in the qualifying and 18 overall. Determined to prove that Trinidad and Tobago are not just there to make up the numbers. They may have been the last team to book their place to Germany, but T&T are more than capable of ruffling a few feathers in this summer's showpiece tournament. Grouped with England, Sweden and Paraguay who are indeed quality teams, could be in for a few surprises when they meet the Soca Warriors in Germany.
It was also mentioned that the T&T player to have contested the most FIFA World Cup Qualifying Matches is Marvin Andrews with 38 games, followed by Russell Latapy with 36 appearances and Dwight Yorke with 35. Latapy and Yorke have both played in five different preliminary competitions (1990-2006), along with Michael Maurice who collected 20 caps between World Cup 1982 and 1998.
Aurtis Whitley, rated one of the best midfielder in local football. Refused to play under former coach Bertille St Clair for personal reasons. However, all that changed when coach Leo Beenhakker took over and Whitley never looked back. Now a main stay on the T&T team after some dazzling display and have been on the up ever since his first game. Packed with armory and strong on his feet Whitley led the local charge by example and will be one of T&T's secret weapon in Germany.
Did you know.
T&T is officially the smallest country to ever compete in the FIFA World Cup Finals. The country’s population is just 1.3 million. T&T is also the smallest country at Germany 2006 with an area of 5,128 km. Trinidad and Tobago was “discovered” in 1498, they achieved independence from England in 1962 to become the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.
Port of Spain, our capital city is filled with excitement and great ventures. While Tobago offer a more relax atmosphere. Tobago is home to the oldest protected rainforest in the Western Hemisphere. It really is the last of the un-spoilt Caribbean.
Trinidad and Tobago’s population figures now stand at about 1.3 million. Most Trinbagonians are of African or Indian descent, comprising 40% of the population each, while the rest of the ethnic mix trace their history back to European, Chinese or Middle Eastern ancestry.
This diversity is reflected in the religious mix as well – Christianity is the largest faith, followed by Hinduism, Islam and the traditional African faiths.
The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association was formed on July 23rd 1908 and affiliated with FIFA and its confederate member in 1963. On September 13th 1998, the name of the Association was officially changed to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Federation.