On Target
June 9, 2006

Football World Cup craze begins

For the next month, the football world reaches its zenith with the staging of the World Cup in Germany. There will be no shortage of action as the sixty-four matches promise to showcase football skills from the elites in the sport.

During this period, everything else in the football world ceases and the goings-on in Germany hold the spotlight.{{more}}

Statistics have shown that the crime rate in football crazed countries, as well as birth rates drop during the staging of the world cup. Conversely, productivity on the job also falls.

This, the biggest world cup in history, with thirty-two teams stashed into eight groups seeking to remain the last one standing on July 9, begins today.

For the fourth time in the cup’s history, the Caribbean has representation at the final. As expected, regional support has been thrown behind first time qualifiers Trinidad and Tobago – the Soca Warriors.

Passionate or just out of sheer solidarity, Caribbean people are hoping one of the major upsets that often occur in world tournaments may come Trinidad and Tobago’s way when they oppose England on June 15.

Whilst expectations have not been inflated, the thought resides in the minds of many.

But for our southern neighbours, getting to Germany to showcase their football talents is a foretaste of the international focus the country will get.

Trinidad and Tobago’s participation brings the entire region into focus- a region that had once established itself as the most potent cricketing nation.

No chance has been spared to ensure that the twin-island republic’s cultural offerings have been exposed to the world.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines may have ruined its best chances thus far to get further in world cup qualification, having had the same Trinidad and Tobago on the ropes when both teams met.

It may be a blessing in disguise that this country’s march towards qualification was halted, as the pathway would have been rough granted the present restructuring of the major sporting facilities here.

The local football body has set 2010 as the target date for qualification. Let us be mindful that Trinidad and Tobago’s achievement and Jamaica’s in 1998, were not by any stroke of luck.

Setting targets are important, but unrealistic ones make a mockery of our planning.

Reaching the world stage in any sport is no fly by night achievement, but a systematic and studied approach to development of the individual athlete or the team.

While we remain a nation that plays football and not a football nation, our innate football talents remain raw and untapped awaiting extraction.

We seem contented with the windfall that follows each world cup rather than genuine development of the sport.

This country has been the beneficiary of funds from FIFA each year since 1998. A conservative extrapolation shows about US$2 million already have been received for the development of football here, however this manifestation is not visible as much has been consumed in other areas.

But as we grapple with our internal shortcomings and ramblings, the world cup will go hopefully without incidents.

Many Vincentians have their favourites as the diet of international football served via cable and direct television has increased interest. Five times champion Brazil with their flair go ahead of the pack. England, Germany, Italy and Argentina are the other favourites forwarded by the bookmakers.

Holland is seen as a dark horse. African teams Ivory Coast, Togo, Ghana and Tunisia bring with them robust energy which can off set the most orthodox opponents.

With the intricacies and psychological battles played of the field, we have to wait until the final whistle to confirm or reject our projections.