“We don’t support sport. We support events.”
Brian Lewis’ comment in the context of the overwhelming turnout and the peculiar behaviour of many fans for Tuesday’s do-or-die women’s World Cup qualifier was prompted by my lamentation over the preoccupation with fete, fete, fete before, during and immediately after the 1-0 loss to Ecuador that ended the dream of the national team.
It was during a commercial break of an interview with the president of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic on Friday’s “Sporting Edition” on TV6 that the point was being developed.
There’s very little about the Trini way of doing things that should shock or bewilder anymore. Still, this slavish obsession with inane, repetitive, re-heated trash to the extent that the football almost appeared to be getting in the way of the ragga-ragga, yabba-dabba doltishness leaves you to wonder.
Barely had the shrill blast of the referee’s final whistle died down than the whole cacophonous nonsense was pumped up to the max by the house DJ. Surely, though, this was the moment, notwithstanding the crushing disappointment of defeat when so, so close to a first-ever appearance at a senior Women’s World Cup finals, to appreciate the efforts of both teams then going through vastly different emotional experiences out on the field.
Most of the Trini girls were inconsolable, not least goalkeeper Kimika Forbes. So outstanding between the uprights in helping her side reach this far, she will, like Michael Maurice 25 years and 13 days earlier, re-live that moment in second half stoppage time when indecision coming off her line created an opportunity for Monica Quinteros to get the touch that proved enough for the South Americans to steal the victory and claim the 24th and final spot at next year’s tournament in Canada.
Maylee Attin-Johnson, outstanding throughout the game with her energy in battling for the ball in midfield and urging on her teammates, fulfilled her leadership responsibilities in shaking hands with all three officials on the field before returning to the company of her fellow players.
In stark contrast, the Ecuadoreans could barely restrain their jubilation. There were no more than 20 or so supporters of the visitors among the 22,000-plus at the Hasely Crawford Stadium but almost all of them enjoyed the moment to the fullest. Smiles, tears of joy and fulsome embraces among players, support staff and those few fans put the cap on a memorable night for the women’s game of that country.
Had the efforts of both teams been really appreciated, they would have been warmly applauded at the end of it all and maybe, just maybe, the Trinidad and Tobago players would have found an audience receptive enough to allow them a chance to walk around the athletic track and acknowledge the presence of the fans, especially as none of them had ever before experienced such an atmosphere in senior national colours.
Even if Ecuador had completely ruined the occasion for the hosts by virtue of that solitary goal, they deserved to be acknowledged as worthy competitors, hanging on tenaciously before making Trinidad and Tobago pay the ultimate price for failing to convert the handful of clear-cut chances that came the home side’s way.
I was thinking of using the phrase about Ecuador “spoiling the party” by their victory. However that clearly was not the case as the dancehall extravaganza was on in full swing, complete with hands in the air, legs in the air and posteriors rotating even as the Trinidad and Tobago players eventually trudged off back into the dressing room, their drooped shoulders and forlorn expressions completely at odds with the fete that was not only in full swing, but continued out along Wrightson Road and across to the limers’ ground zero: Ariapita Avenue.
Defeat in a sporting event is not a disaster, nor should it trigger a violent reaction. Surely though it should matter...at least a little bit. Shouldn’t it?
Lewis’ contention that we are not a society that really supports sport but merely celebrates the moments as isolated events was in response to my assertion that we may want to win very badly, but losing isn’t something that hurts so much that we vow to do whatever it takes to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.
At the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany, where Trinidad and Tobago made an historic first appearance, a hard-fought goalless draw in the opening game with Sweden was followed by another battling performance against England where the favourites were frustrated for 82 minutes before Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard eased English discomfort for a 2-0 win.
It was a result that had Trinis chipping down the Western Main Road in St James in celebration of the defeat.
If losing doesn’t really matter, from where does the never-say-die will to win come?