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Behind the Soca Warriors

By Terry Joseph
April 07, 2006

By the time you read this, I will be in England, on behalf of the Football Federation (T&TFF), deputising for the Special Advisor and chairman of the T&T/Germany 2006 Local Organising Committee, Jack Warner; at two events being staged over the next four days in celebration of our Soca Warriors.

At noon today, as part of a contingent from the Trinidad and Tobago High Commission to London, I shall be proceeding to Port Vale where, tomorrow, the team for which Hector Sam and Chris Birchall play is paying tribute to those two Warriors. Monday night, High Commissioner Glenda Morean-Phillips is hosting the European media at Belgrave Square; offering a taste of T&T culture and cuisine.

Tuesday morning will find me in Germany to connect with another Trini contingent comprising representatives from the Culture, Sport and Tourism Ministries and the Island People entertainment company, who are undertaking a fact-finding mission to plan activities geared to supporting the Soca Warriors during their campaign.

Much of this past week was spent meeting with ebay representatives from Germany, here for talks with the T&TFF officials regarding the company's partnership with the Soca Warriors, an arrangement that includes spreading word of our team and country to its 181 million subscribers and tangible support for ancillary events featuring Trinidad and Tobago during the playoffs.

The ebay team, comprising senior public relations manager Leonie Bechtoldt, brand manager Corinna Baumgarten and media management consultant Jan Wendt, is fascinated by T&T, the first country ever to attract this level of sponsorship from the super-successful company; all through the efforts of Mr Warner.

The trio returns at the end of this month with a phalanx of German media to capture images of local life and take in the Soca Warriors vs Peru game at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on May 10, a fund-raising farewell to the team, which will also offer a spectacular pre-game concert.

At a working dinner Tuesday, hosted by T&T/Germany CEO Richard Groden and including information technology specialist Cheryl Abrams, the eBay trio described Rotenberg, where the Soca Warriors will camp, as having been already transformed into a little Trinidad and Tobago, with flags and bunting everywhere. "Everyone at home is very excited by what you will bring to Germany,'' Ms Bechtoldt said.

Mark you, this is just a thumbnail account of my involvement with the Soca Warriors support system over the current two-week period, part of an ongoing work on several fronts and with similar intensity since last November. Meanwhile, several sub-committees are simultaneously addressing the challenges presented by other components of the T&T/Germany effort, to ensure this country delivers optimally next June and at a series of activities scheduled between now and that time.

Apart from chairman Warner, his deputy Oliver Camps and CEO Groden, there are separate sub-committees handling security, media, international friendly games, marketing and licensing of the Soca Warriors brand, broadcast rights, special events, finance, diplomatic relations, team manager is Bruce Aanensen and his assistant George Joseph. Peter O'Connor heads up the secretariat and Jamaican Horace Reid brings to the table a wealth of experience gained by managing his country's Reggae Boyz for the France '98 campaign.

Tony Harford has been co-opted to deal with the Soca Warriors benefit dinner to be held at the Joao de Havelange Centre of Excellence on May 12 and all hands are on deck for the road-show, which will present the team to districts in Trinidad that may not have had the pleasure of seeing our players in person. The Tobago leg of that activity is being managed by the island's House of Assembly and will include a visit to Captain Dwight Yorke's home.

To get all of this done requires a series of meetings, some of which commence as early as 6 a.m. Public holidays and Sundays aren't excluded (we met on the day of the National Panorama semi-finals) and even when chairman Warner is out of town, LOC executive members can expect more than a dozen queries daily via email and/or telephone to ensure no slippage occurs in progress or implementation of the various ongoing programmes.

It is all in the interest of making certain that coach Leo Beenhakker's work with the team has a solid support base from this end because, ideally, when the 11 players trot out onto the field at Dortmund's Westfalenstadion on June 10, they must feel confident that every Trini who could have helped at whatever level is stoutly behind the Soca Warriors.

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