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Footballers show power of unity

Published: 
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
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Andre Baptiste

Adversity can either breed success or increase failure!

Life is about challenges and accepting that on occasions, your faith will be tested and your commitment questioned by everyone, including those that closest to you.

In sports, which are a reflection of life, there constantly exists that turmoil of both mind and body.

In Spain over the last week, I witnessed a young group of men representing their country first in all of their actions and the effort that was displayed in some difficult circumstances should not go unnoticed.

Despite the abysmal efforts of the Spanish officials hired by United Arab Emirates management team to ensure that the T&T football contingent received satisfactory arrangements for training (transportation and training), these young men had a smile on their face when they were together.

On the way, to their only training session last Tuesday, the weather changed dramatically in Girona, from sun to rain, then thunder with lighting and finally hail and as the stones from above hit the coach and taxis, everything began to look rather doubtful. The taxi driver, a citizen of Girona, was only shaking his head and constantly making the sign of the cross in this predominantly Catholic state.

Yet still, when the team arrived to train on the grass surface was waterlogged and almost unplayable, the team eagerly ran to the field to practice. Eventually, the authorities at the community ground, fearing for the surface, requested the team to use the artificial surface at the back, which they did. Still, I must add with a smile and energy, not often seen in this country, where many of us complain, once we do not get our own way.

For me, it was that enthusiasm that sent a signal, that this team was bonded as one, it was not only the fact, that they all timely assembled for a traditional walk or the team bus, but it was the indomitable very rarely seen at the national level. Let me rephrase that comment, to say, that "Team building only works when everyone is reading from the same script", and during the brief time in Spain, the players all understood the philosophy of coach Dennis Lawrence and his staff.

Lawrence’s last message, as the players gathered in a circle to say a parting prayer, resonated with me for the entire night, it was one of: "No excuses, despite the problems, despite the difficulties, this was the time to demonstrate the resolve to aim for success and leave everything on the field out there".

This may not have been November 15, 2005 in Bahrain, where the Bahrain officials banished the T&T supporters to an awkward part of the stadium, only for the national team’s management to react angrily to that, and claim, "Bahrain would pay!" which history showed through Dennis "Tallest" Lawrence’s goal that Bahrain ultimately did. But it was clear, Lawrence understood the message he was delivering and his players knew exactly what their coach was demanding.

If one did not know better, it could well be, that there are some in T&T, that want the team to fail, that want to pound their chests and be proud of any disaster or any problem incurred by the team. Football, I hasten to add, is not the only sport that has this, it exists in our society, because everyone likes to be the leader, to have the best ideas and to succeed, forgetting that the legacy should be measured in what is left after them, not what is done by them alone.

Speaking of caps, those players that made their first cap for their country will always remember the occasion, so to watch the joy on Kestor Julien’s face or the glint in his eye was worth replaying for all who seek to represent their country with pride, purpose and grace.

If only we could all understand the importance of sports, and its role in building the society and enhancing the quality of life that we all live, and therefore try to contribute positively to its existence and help in its growth.

When the final whistle blew on Thursday night in Barcelona, the agony on the face of the UAE, the 77th ranked team which had been preparing for over six weeks to lose to the 91st ranked T&T was there for all to witness. Their World famous Italian coach Alberto Zaccheroni (AC Milan, Juventus, Lazio and Inter) was visibly upset by the 2-0 loss. However, on the night, Lawrence’s team, ably marshalled by captain Khaleem Hyland were intent on delivering a message to all that could hear, listen and eventually watch.

It is one of "Unity breeds success, unity binds us together and keeps us strong".

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