What makes Brian Lara so special

Soccer World Cup 2006

Gunda Wienke

To person

Gunda Wienke is an editor at Matices, a magazine on Latin America, Spain and Portugal, and works as a freelance writer for radio, print and online.

With a sensational 2-1 win against Mexico, the national soccer team of Trinidad and Tobago created a sensation in the last qualifying game: their first participation in a World Cup. One of the most famous players is Dwight Yorke, who plays for Blackburn Rovers in the English Premier League.

Cricket rules - football is number two

Trinidad and Tobago country flag
The Queens Park Savannah, in the middle of the capital Port of Spain, impresses with its lush green, perfectly trimmed lawn. Football is not played here. White-clad players enjoy themselves - "very British" - with a ball and wooden club, while playing cricket. Together with Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago plays world-class for the West Indies. The team's captain, Brian Lara, is one of the world's best "batsmen". When he increased the 36-year-old world record from 365 to 375 "runs" in 1994, the entire Caribbean was ecstatic.

Football is only number two in the 1.3 million state. On the double island, which lies northeast of the Venezuelan coast, the mood was no less exuberant when the "Soca Warriors" qualified for the World Cup in Germany. Prime Minister Patrick Manning declared November 16 a national holiday so that the returning footballers could be celebrated.

The long way of the "Soca Warriors" to the World Cup

The "Soca Warriors" are the fourth Caribbean team to qualify for a World Cup. In Italy in 1938, Cuba was eliminated in the first round, and in 1974 Haiti served as a point supplier in Germany. Only Jamaica's "Reggae Boyz" achieved a victory in France in 1998 with their 2-1 victory over Japan. At the World Cup, the team from Trinidad and Tobago is one of the underdogs. Only in the tenth attempt did the "Warriors" master the qualification in the CONCACAF group (North, Central America and the Caribbean). On the way to Germany one particularly benefited from the inability of the competition.

Via the preliminary round - with victories against the Dominican Republic and against the neighbors St. Vincent / Grenadines and St. Kitts and Nevis - they made it into the final six-person qualification group. Hardly anyone expected that the Soca Warriors would have a chance against Mexico, USA, Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

The team got off to a miserable start and could only get one point from the first three games. The situation already seemed hopeless when the Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker, an experienced selection coach, followed the resigned Bertille St. Claire into office.

The new era of the "Soca Warriors" began with a victory against Panama. On the last day of the match, a win at home against the Mexicans was essential. The long-time qualified Mexicans let themselves be infected by "Liming" - the Caribbean "art of doing nothing". Trinidad and Tobago went 2-1 from the field and secured participation in the playoff round against Bahrain. After a disappointing 1-1 at home against Bahrain, a 1-0 win in Arabia secured their first participation in a World Cup.

The team is the star

Leo Beenhakker is a clear and valued coach - he previously coached the Dutch national team, Ajax Amsterdam and Real Madrid. The Dutchman formed an efficient team from young players and a few veterans. The star and pivot of the team is 34-year-old Dwight Yorke from Sydney FC. He played for a long time at Manchester United, where he formed a congenial striker duo with Andy Cole. His greatest success with Manchester was the unforgettable last-minute win against Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final.

Yorke was initially not available to the national team, but in 2005, at the insistence of the association, announced his resignation and has since played an important role in the central midfield of the Soca Warriors. With Russel Latapy he has another veteran at his side. The 37-year-old is a player-coach at the Scottish club Falkirk. Because of his crucial role in Falkirk's promotion to the Scottish Premier League, he was voted best player in the Scottish Second Division in 2005. In his home country he is still considered the island nation's best footballer of all time. At the World Cup, Latapy will be by far the oldest outfield player. "Of course I am no longer a young hopper," explains the latter, whom his numerous fans worldwide call "Stompy" or "Latas", but his lack of speed easily makes up for with a remarkable overview and the ability to read the game.

With West Ham's goalkeeper Shaka Hislop and attacker Stern John (Coventry) only two other national players play first class. The others are active in second and third class British clubs, play football in the American league or are even without a club at all, like midfielder Silvio Spann.