Moments In Time: Remembering 1997, 2005, the Reggae Boyz and the Soca Warriors

By August 04, 2020

Despite a rich history in football, the Caribbean has not had many moments to savour on the World stage, making them, interestingly, all the more special.

Cuba provided the first of the moments, making the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup all the way back in 1938.

Cuba had always been a little special island, long proving itself self-sufficient and able to compete with the rest of the world, despite any political or financial issues that could serve to slow its development.

That self-sufficiency and ability to achieve despite significant odds meant that Cuba’s entrance to the FIFA World Cup was not a emblematic moment and the rest of the Caribbean felt no closer to the possibility of making it on the world stage.

Thirty-six years later, Haiti provided the second moment, getting to the FIFA World Cup in 1974.

That feat, for a country, which had long-standing political issues and an overbearing poverty problem, was immense.

Now the rest of the Caribbean began to take note. Maybe now other islands could dare to dream.

While Haiti’s football has ebbed and flowed and they have not quite gotten back to those heady heights, the moment was important.

All of a sudden, the possibilities for Caribbean football were immense.

But it took another 20 years before the Reggae Boyz were on a similar journey. For the first time, CONCACAF had more than the obligatory two spots that would go to Mexico and the United States.

Now there was hope for someone else to join the fray. Still there were obstacles.

In 1997, the Reggae Boyz were up against it. In the final round they were winless, until a series of three games, 1-0 wins over each of El Salvador, Canada, and Costa Rica.

After finishing winless in the first four games of the final qualifying round, Jamaica recorded three 1–0 wins over El Salvador, Canada, and Costa Rica, giving them a chance at history.

Jamaica were on the cusp of becoming the first English-speaking team from the Caribbean to make it to the World Cup.

But standing in their way was the mighty Mexico. Jamaica needed to avoid losing to a team they had lost to 6-0 earlier in those qualifiers. There was hope but it was slim.

History has a funny way of staying the same and no matter how many times this story gets told, the 0-0 draw the Reggae Boyz achieved against the attacking juggernauts that were Mexico still seems unlikely.

An entire nation celebrated, but so did the rest of the Caribbean. After all, there were other countries in the region that had proven worthy adversaries for the Reggae Boyz and that meant somebody else could make it too.

In 2006, somebody else did.

Trinidad and Tobago, still with two of its legends, Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy, in tow would take an ageing team, and prove the Caribbean were now becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Until 2018 when Iceland made their World Cup bow, T&T were the smallest nation to ever play in the tournament.

But it wasn’t easy either, and Trinidad and Tobago, after finishing fourth in the final round had to contend with the unknown quantity that was Bahrain.

The tiny twin-island republic had to play against a team, which had financial resources that would dwarf it.

Things looked even more bleak for T&T after the first leg of the home-and-away tie on November 12, 2005, played at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, ended 1-1.

This meant, T&T had to go away to win against a team they couldn’t get the better of at home.

Again, the Caribbean beat the odds and a 1-0 win at the Bahrain National Stadium on the 16th of November 2005 again changed the course of history for the Caribbean side and the region around it.

The Caribbean has, since those moments made great leaps in the transport of its players all over the world, even if those marginal improvements have yet to bare fruit in terms of consistent Caribbean representation at the ICC World Cup.

But the improvements continue as can be seen with the large number of locally grown players, now turning out for the national teams of countries all over the region.

Today there is more and more competition from the rest of the Caribbean and neither T&T nor Jamaica have a free run of the region anymore.

It is interesting that the success of the three over the last 46 years, is what has created a competitive Caribbean and destroyed the spectre of their unquestioned dominance.  

Paul-Andre Walker

Paul-Andre is the Managing Editor at SportsMax.tv. He comes to the role with almost 20 years of experience as journalist. That experience includes all facets of media. He began as a sports Journalist in 2001, quickly moving into radio, where he was an editor before becoming a news editor and then an entertainment editor with one of the biggest media houses in the Caribbean.

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