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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

And as we cast our eyes back home...

Now that the World Cup is over, Italy having won and Zinadine Zidane having eloquently expressed the frustration of the French with a butt and a short right jab, we can try to turn our attention home again.

Between our Warriors' homecoming and Sunday's final, stadia and community grounds are being renamed in their honour, and players from Trinidad & Tobago are being given more serious looks by European club teams. Kenwyne Jones has indicated that his new fans had better be on the lookout for him in the new season at Southampton, several club teams are said to be interested in standout players like Chris Birchall, Jason Scotland and Densill Theobald, Carlos Edwards is said to have caught the attention of Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, and goalkeeper Kelvin Jack has signed on with English First Division team, Gillingham. Finally, Leo Beenhakker has now signed on with the Polish national team to take them to Euro Cup 2008, and his assistant Wim Rijsbergen has accepted the position of head coach of the national senior football team for four years through 2010. Fear not though, because according to the terms of the agreement documented by Jack Warner, Coach Leo will continue to work with Team Trinidad & Tobago as a special advisor on an as-needs basis and could be back on board in full after 2008.

Turning attention now to regional and domestic sport, the Stanford 20/20 Cricket Tournament got underway yesterday with two games at the Stanford Cricket Ground in Antigua. In Match 1, the US Virgin Islands got past St. Maarten by 48 runs, and advance to play St. Vincent & the Grenadines on July 18th. In Match 2, the Cayman Island beat the Bahamas, and they will advance to meet Trinidad & Tobago on July 25th.

The full match schedule is available at the Stanford 20/20 Cricket Tournament website and Cricinfo.com is carrying live online commentary.

For readers who use Google Calendar, you can click on the button below to add the match schedule to your personal calendars.


For those who still have the football bug, the Trinidad & Tobago Professional Football League resumed competition yesterday with matches at four venues. And if the match schedules read right, there's a lot of football to be played all over the country from now until December.

After 11 rounds, just three points separate top-of-the-table North East Stars on 25 from fourth placed W Connection on 22. Joe Public and San Juan Jabloteh are tied on 23, but Jabloteh has a game in hand. By way of note, national senior team players Aurtis Whitley and Anthony Wolfe both start for San Juan Jabloteh.

It's important that we not only follow but support local and regional sport, even if it's to ride and deride players for not doing as well as we know they can.

In the former case, the visible support lets the young people know that we're there for them to cheer them on. In the latter, it let's them know that we care enough to get upset about sub-par performance. Both reactions help to boost players' performance and confidence because they know that they have more than just themselves and their team mates to play for. Riding with them is the spirit of a community.

A classic example of this spirit is seen in the community around the Malick Senior Comprehensive School. Malick entered the Secondary School Football League a number of years ago on the back of a very talented young team. The school and their success was embraced by the Malick Barataria neighbourhood who now travel with their team to their games during the school season. Malick is never without school and neighbourhood support, no matter where they go. And no matter what the quality of the team or the players in a particular year, the community support buoys them on because they play for more than the enjoyment of the game and for themselves; they represent the pride of their neighbourhood.

Such was the reason, I'm sure, that the Trinidad & Tobago national senior team played the way that they did. Not only were they on stage for themselves, playing on the grandest platform of their careers, but they played for Trinbagonian Pride. And we were there, visibly and vocally, to cheer them on.

If really we want to make it to South Africa in 2010, that visible and vocal support needs to continue here at home. And "Home" doesn't translate to friendly international matches and zonal qualifiers alone either, but also includes domestic club games and school football. The players don't only play big international matches. Many, like Whitley and Wolfe, play their ball and earn their pay right here at home. And I'm certain that there will be at least one standout player in the schools' league starting in September that will feature in Trinidad & Tobago's qualifiers for South Africa, so the schools' football requires a look-see too.

According to the PFL match schedule, there are at least three sets of matches per week across the country, most starting after four in the afternoon. Schools' football starts soon too, and their matches are generally after four in the afternoon as well. Instead of heading into traffic or straight home immediately after work, it could be a good idea to kill some time in town or wherever you are and take in a PFL or a schoolboy - or schoolgirl - game. It's worth noting at this point that Malick and Providence, if memory serves, have also produced formidable girls' teams in recent years. Saturday games also provide a decent opportunity for an afternoon outing with friends and family to lend support to a community team. I'm fairly certain that the players will appreciate seeing new faces, and faces other than their own family and close friends, in the stands.

So having worn red and flown flags on our vehicles, let's bring that ardour home and support our sportsmen and women. Show the sporting associations, NGOs and Ministry of Sport that we're serious about our young (and old!) sportspeople - footballers, cricketers, netballers and basketballers, tennis, squash and badminton players, table tennis enthusiasts, sprinters and distance runners, field athletes, swimmers, checkers and dominoes champions, all competitive athletes - by being out there with them. You just might find that you get an entertaining afternoon or two out of the effort.

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