Thu, Dec

IT is now 31 years since since the football fiasco in Port Au Prince, Haiti.

It was a World Cup qualifying series and a crucial match against Haiti was fought December 4, 1974.

A draw against the Haitians would have pushed Trinidad and Tobago into the World Cup Finals the following year in Munich, Germany.

But it was a catastrophe for the T&T team. Five goals were scored, but for no earthly reason, only one--a goal from centre forward Steve David--was allowed. The Haitians "won" the match 2-1 and went on to play in the finals in Germany.

Two of the officials--referee Jose Henrigues of El Salvador and the Canadian linesman James Highet --were later banned for life by FIFA, football's world governing body. The ridiculous officiating infuriated soccer fans worldwide, and even the Haitians, were dumbfounded.

The match, if it could termed that, was brought back to life this week by the assistant coach, Ken Henry following the sudden death of one of the stars of the team, defender Russell Tesheira.

In Haiti, the Trinidadians bounced back after losing the opening encounter 2-1 to Honduras. They defeated Guatemala 1-0; they beat Mexico 4-0; "lost" 2-1 to Haiti and trounced the Netherland Antilles 4-0.

Tesheira, who later captained the national team, died following heart surgery at Gulf View Medical Centre, San Fernando and will be buried Monday (private internment) following a 2 p.m. Church Service at the Trinity Cathedral, Port of Spain.

Henry pointed out that Tesheira is the first member of the entire squad of 1974 (including players and officials), to move on into the arena in the sky. "All the boys are still around after all these years and it is really sad that Rusell has left us. We meet every now and then and relive some of the heartaches suffered in Haiti".

Henry said the most glaring of them all was one of the goals scored by Steve David.

"Listen to this," said Henry, "Winston Phillips made a throw right over the 18-yard box. David got up and headed the ball and Wilfred Cave got his boot to it and scored--a perfect goal, he had interfered with no one. Now the referee--15 yards away--blew his whistle and pointed to the middle...GOAL!

"The players, Tesheira, included were all rejoicing and jumping with joy. Then comes the linesman who was 40 yards away. He ran to the referee, whispered something in his ear. The referee brings back the ball and orders a free kick. We had to take that with a smile."

"We were all upset and disgusted and I remember seeing Tesheira, who played so well as usual in the defence, maintaining his cool throughout. What a fine gentleman...what a credit to football. What a dedicated and committed soul, " Henry continued.

Henry, who was coach of the Malvern team, recalled that the entire T&T squad remained focused throughout the ordeal, even when forwards Warren Archibald and David were brutalised. "Archie was fouled over a dozen times. That was their plan to put him out of the game," he said.

Henry continued: "When Russell joined Malvern we became very close. I did a lot of work with both Russell and Kevin Barclay. Russell always gave 100 per cent. He was a down- to-earth person and never forgot his humble roots in the Nelson Street area when he moved up and became an executive in the insurance industry.

"There is one thing I must say about Russell. Although he was the perfect gentleman, he could be as hard as nuts. They all loved him and he had a real strong following from Nelson Street. He was well respected by the elders there and they always supported him," Henry said.

Eddie Hart, a former Malvern star, now Minister of State in the Tourism and Culture Ministry, said Tesheira was an inspiration to members of the national team.

Similar sentiments were expressed by Ulric Boxill, Ulric "Buggy" Haynes and Tansley Thompson, who played alongside Tesheira over the years.