Sun, Jul


andre toussaintTrinidad and Tobago place a high premium on entertainment. The country of calypso and Carnival loves a good party.

There may be several reasons for repeated low attendances at international fixtures but, almost certainly, the lack of artistry from the "Soca Warriors" has played a part in a romance that has grown stale between national footballers and supporters.

Dutchman Leo Beenhakker's workmanlike outfit was the most successful in T&T's history, but it was a relationship of convenience. The class of 2006 took its supporters to the World Cup and was loved for it.

Everald "Gally" Cummings' "Strike Squad" was adored just for showing up. The cheek of Russell Latapy, athleticism of Leonson Lewis, mystique of Brian Williams, swagger of Dexter Francis and calm leadership of Clayton Morris touched a chord that meant more than just three points.

It might be too cynical to state that national supporters merely turn up because of patriotic duty these days. But the levels of antipication attached to a trip to the match venue are surely lowered.

Yet, there were times in Friday night's Digicel Caribbean Cup fixture when spectators sat up and idle chatter died. Almost exclusively, it was when Andre Toussaint had possession of the ball.

Trinidad and Tobago won 3-1 against St Kitts, by the way, but that was incidental. Local fans should expect no less against an average team in a competition of such significance that Dwight Yorke played less than a handful of Caribbean Cup games in his 20-year career.

But Toussaint's appeal had nothing to do with his opponents. There was something in the way the W. Connection striker cradled the ball that would make football lovers blush. His balance and poise seemed reminiscent of a buoy, which is advantageous as the Trinidad and Tobago midfield often looks at sea.

Captain Aurtis Whitley has just returned from injury and would presumably need a few more games to regain his aura, while 35-year-old Arnold Dwarika is tidy on the ball but no longer has the change of speed to scare defenders and teenager Khaleem Hyland is essentially a bouncer-albeit one with delightfully quick feet.

It leaves Keon Daniel and Toussaint to provide the bit of flair that locals crave. The former has a bright future ahead. He is left-footed, technically sound and a clever passer.

But Toussaint, who, at 27, is six years older than Daniel, is more polished in his trade. His body language offers an air of serenity and, even at full pace, he never appears hurried.

Of course from a functional viewpoint, Toussaint is expendable. In coach Francisco Maturana's crowded frontline, Toussaint lacks Cornell Glen's searing pace, Jason Scotland's strength, Kenwyne Jones' aerial prowess and Stern John's menace.

Toussaint's 28 international appearances so far yielded an average five goals, while Daniel, from midfield, has six items from 22 outings.

Perhaps he could be more ruthless within the offensive third of the field. Maybe he should charge the penalty box more or be more selfish.

But, on Friday, Toussaint's selfless link up play and movement made the Warriors a better passing team and a more watchable one.

Maturana's motive for using him might be selfish-his job is to win games not pander to the public-but at least one observer was pleased with his inclusion.

Late Argentine poet Jorge Luis Borges was once asked to defend the value of his craft.

"What is a sunshine for?" Borges asked his interviewer. "What are caresses for? What is the smell of coffee for?"

Intuitively, Trinidad and Tobago football fans agree. If not, Latapy would not be hailed as the country's greatest player.

Toussaint is no Latapy but, in these artistically impoverished times, he will do just fine.