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Can we?


Vincy Heat faces its sternest test in its quest to advance to the next phase of the 2010 World Cup Qualifiers. Never before in four previous journeys has the team been pitted against such formidable opposition in its opening fixture.{{more}}

It will be a case of the biblical story of David versus Goliath or the small axe and the big tree scenario.

And, the odds are heavily stacked against St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Canada can be considered a Heavyweight in the CONCACAF region, while St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a Lighweight. Canada is ranked 60th on FIFA’s latest world rankings, while St. Vincent and the Grenadines sits at 87 places lower, at 147.

Canada has tasted the World Cup Finals; St. Vincent and the Grenadines is yet to emerge from the group stages, in the region, from our other outings.

We have little facilities, few professional players, a small population, not much financial backing form corporate St. Vincent and the Grenadines, neither an abundance of financial resources. In fact, we are a struggling nation, just trying to make ends meet.

Added to these, we are basically a nation that plays football rather than a football nation.

We are not adept to the psychological warfare that is a norm in the sphere of international sports.

And, the lead up to match in the first leg of the second round, here at the Arnos Vale Playing Field, puts us as the clear underdogs.

The local team has lost the last four of its full friendly internationals. Vincy Heat was beaten by Grenada 2-1, by Barbados 2-0, by Jamaica 5-1 and lastly by Cuba 1-0.

On the other hand, the Canadians lost to Brazil 3-2, and drew with Panama 2-2. In addition, the Canadians have been in camp in Florida for the past three weeks. Our preparations have been restricted to an 11-day stint in Trinidad and Tobago, and another eight-day outing between Jamaica and Cuba.

Football here is hyped only every four years, whenever the World Cup Qualifiers are in the air. Then, there is the usual lull, thereafter.

It was instructive that one Jamaican commentator made reference that on the St. Vincent and the Grenadines team there is a teacher; there is a jeweler. The Canadians, in the main are a professional outfit.

This sums up our state of play, as our players have to juggle between earning a living between eight and four and yet give maximum output when required on the local or national football stage.

This gives credence to the fact that sees the core of the team above the age of 30.

Kendall Velox and Alwyn Guy were there when this country played its first World Cup qualifier in 1992. Sixteen years later, they are still a part of the set up. Other key players, Wesley Charles, Marlon James, Cornelius Huggins and Melvin Andrews were part of the 1998 campaign.

But we are paying the price of having Technical Director Zoran Vranes for four years on a paid holiday, as we have to resort and eventually field the tried and tested.

But, all these can be immaterial come Sunday, as it is what happens between kick off time at 3 p.m. and the other 90 minutes of playing time that matters.

What we have, though, is raw talent and athleticism.

We have in the past come up with exceptional performances. Cast your minds to October 10, 2004, here, when this small nation state of ours was able to hold the might of Mexico to a 1-0 defeat, and could have even won or drawn the match, as we created some openings.

Or rewind to 1979 when we stunned the Caribbean in the Caribbean Football Union’s Cup in Suriname, beating Trinidad and Tobago and the host. We repeated our second place feat two years later in Puerto Rico. And for good measure, we finished second in the Shell Cup in 1995, to earn a place one later in the prestigious CONCACAF Gold Cup in the USA, our lone visit to the Confederation’s showpiece. So, we have earned some stripes, and have revealed some football pedigree at least in the regional context. We showed it is not the size of the country, but the quality of teamwork that counted.

However, we have failed to be consistent. Can this Sunday be one of our mountaintop experiences?

To do so, it cannot be seen as 11 versus 11, but the entire population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines against the Canadians who take to the field.

Our crowds at national sporting events have been reactive instead of being proactive. We tend only to cheer at good moves or goals in this case, not sustained chanting and rooting for our players.

Likewise, we are quick to cast derogatory remarks on those who do not come up to mark.

We have to change that and drown the arena with loud cheers and give the players that injection, as they need the support.

It is opportune for the nation to feel a sense of achievement, and have something to relish amidst the rising crime and the economic vice that have gripped us.

In all this, though, we have to clothe ourselves in realism whilst dressed in national pride.

Whatever the outcome of Sunday’s match, and the eventual tie, let Football be the winner.

We have much to gain and little to lose from this exercise, as not only Vincy Heat comes into focus but the entire state of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The players believe that they can. Can we?

But we can do without the obstruction of that Mound at the Sion Hill Playing Field, and can do well if the Executive of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation reveals the amount of money being paid to Technical Director Stewart John Hall.