Trinidad and Tobago

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Germany welkhommen

By Terry Joseph
December 09, 2005

Pictures have often been translated into paragraph-value and normally accorded 1,000 words each but if you were in Germany over the past couple of days, the appraisal would have come into question as everyone here in Leipzig is according many more chapters to the Trinidad and Tobago advance to the World Cup Finals.

It really is more than merely amazing. The minute you appear in any configuration of Trinidad and Tobago colours, a crowd surges, asking all kinds of questions; all the more a pity that the imminent PNM convention forbade Government Ministers from being part of the team that travelled some 24 hours to be part of this event.

CNN World and Fox Sports spent considerable time yesterday evening, remarking upon this "tiny" nation's ascendancy, citing the Togo comparative but making the point that our country was likely the biggest news at today's draw, which will be held at the extraordinary piece of architecture that is the specially-constructed FIFA Centre in Leipzig.

This level of interest only echoed what has occurred from the time we exited Leipzig airport, where welcome indications have not been matched anywhere in my travels or experience; even (in fact, more dramatically so), by the world's greatest Carnival.

A nine-member team of Trinidad and Tobago Federation (TTFF) delegates, led by president Oliver Camps and including Germany 2006 CEO Richard Groden, team manager Bruce Aanensen and Senator Roy Augustus, had been travelling for some 24 hours, leaving Piarco circa 7.20 p.m. on BWIA Flight 900 for London, arriving there with a cripplingly short connection to Dusseldorf on Lufthansa and another transfer on the same airline to Leipzig; arriving at the Renaissance Hotel at 6.20 p.m. Wednesday.

In fact, we had just enough time to shower, change and get downstairs for the bus to attend a media party at Montzbastei, where hundreds of globally influential media operatives convened socially to discuss playoff possibilities and predictions, with particular reference to domestic support levels. We couldn't tell them how difficult it has been to secure donations.

But from as far west as London's Heathrow airport where, given the push to Leipzig, hosted many journalists, who all wanted a sound-bite about Trinidad and Tobago. The avalanche of queries about our chances gave rise to the belief that it was not merely the quest for news-clips but some level of confidence that we could move past the exotica of first-round play to another level; captain Dwight Yorke's name coming up in almost every paragraph of conversation.

This was nothing compared to what was in store when we arrived in Leipzig. The contingent enjoyed VIP status at the airport, spared customs and immigration hassles and ushered to five spanking new Hyundai mini-buses (the oldest having no more than 400 kms on the odometer), our chief hostess instructing that "for comfort", FIFA ruled that no more than two persons should ride in each ten-seater vehicle. It was to be the standard for our stay, with 72-seater buses sent to collect the nine of us for even short drives to venues like the party at Montzbastei.

Of course, it would have been comforting to have Sports Minister Roger Boynes, or his counterparts in Culture, Tourism and Foreign Affairs present but, as earlier indicated, that was not to be. We therefore had to represent those areas of influence to the best of our collective abilities as television crews descended upon the Trinidad and Tobago contingent, wishing to know more about this little country that is now big news.

Even on the way to breakfast yesterday morning, the group from Togo stopped the elevator to grill us on Trinidad and Tobago, as was the case at the accreditation centre in the compelling structure that is the FIFA Centre in Leipzig .

Lunch for the T&T contingent was singularly hosted by the billionaire president of Hyundai, Dr Chung Moon-Joon, who spent much of the time praising fellow FIFA vice president Jack Warner, stopping only to introduce former Asian soccer MVP Kim Joo Sung (1989-1991) and inviting us to be his country's guests in 2007 when his native Korea hosts the FIFA Under-17 tournament. On concluding the 11-course repaste, there was just enough time to get back to the hotel and change for last night's FIFA banquet.

From all indications, there will be more of Trinidad and Tobago under the spotlight at today's draw, which airs at 3.30 p.m. in Trinidad and Tobago .

Someone in large authority really should take notice of what the rest of the world thinks of the Soca Warriors.


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