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Hero’s welcome for Soca Warriors

CHARLEEN THOMAS Friday, November 18 2005

Trinidad and Tobago’s Soca Warriors received a rousing welcome from a massive crowd of ecstatic flag waving fans at Piarco Airport yesterday.

The national heroes’ chartered flight arrived from Bahrain at 2.45pm, but the thousands of fans who waited from as early as 10 am to greet the team had to wait an additional two hours to catch a glimpse of the players, who were held up in the VIP lounge.

With faces painted in the national colours, adorned in every shade of red imaginable, and with flags and bandanas of different sizes swaying to loud soca music, the fans waited impatiently for their heroes.

Police and soldiers were out in their numbers to keep the situation under control.

The World Cup Finalist Soca Warriors emerged in their new black and white Adidas outfits.

As they came out, the impatient crowd burst into screams and shouts, and the now familiar "Ole Ole chant."      

The Warriors arrived minus seven players, including captain Dwight Yorke, midfield general Russell Latapy and key first-leg goal scorer Christopher Birchall, all of whom have contractual obligations abroad. Coach Leo Beenhakker did not return with the team, but TTFA adviser Jack Warner and goal scoring hero Dennis Lawrence were singled out for a roaring applause.

Introduced individually to the fans, the players were then escorted to the car park by moko jumbies, pan and tassa for the formal part of the proceedings.

In his speech, Prime Minister Patrick Manning said he planned to meet with Dwight Yorke to discuss how best to reward the players for their achievement. Manning said those discussions will resume on his return from an overseas trip, for which he leaves today.

Manning said the victory over Bahrain and World Cup qualification would forever be embedded in the psyche of Trinbagonians.

He said the victory brought the nation together - something politicians have been trying to do without success.

He said, "politicians have been talking of unity, but one football match has united the nation."

Manning told the players that the game had a nail-biting finish, and he reminded the team that he has two artificial valves and a pacemaker. He then jokingly said he planned to charge the players for the wear and tear.

In saluting the team for "doing what he could not do," Manning also said he was pleased to share the platform with Warner because, "inspite of what may be said about him, he is dedicated to the cause of football."

The Prime Minister noted that the team faced hostile conditions to which it was not accustomed, saying the achievement was even more significant because it was played away from home.

Manning assured the huge crowd of vociferous supporters that the Government will ensure that coach Leo Beenhakker continues to have a job.

Draped in the national flag, defender Dennis Lawrence, speaking on behalf of the team, thanked Warner, the coach, the technical staff and the team’s supporters.

He said he knew that the country is facing a lot of crime and violence and hoped that the victory would begin a process of peace, love and harmony.

Warner said the country should not look at the victory as the end, but another phase in the World Cup journey. In order for the team to perform well, he said, we need the support and prayers of everyone.

He thanked the Government for its assistance. "World Cup events come and go," Warner said, "but no other would remain in our memories as this one." He noted, however, that we have much work to do over the next three to six months.


South celebrates football victory

DESERTED streets in San Fernando and other southern towns were a sign that yesterday’s impromptu public holiday was well received. Many made the trip to Piarco International Airport to welcome the Soca Warriors, but most southerners opted to view the welcome ceremony in the comfort of their living rooms.

San Fernando, Chaguanas, Princes Town, Point Fortin, Rio Claro and Penal took on a ghost town look. It was in stark contrast to the hundreds who spilled out into the main thoroughfare to celebrate on Wednesday afternoon. Motorists formed motorcades and blaring horns became the new greeting to scores who spilled onto the streets.

Among them was San Fernando Mayor Ian Atherly, who commented, "The confidence Trinbogonians had in the team has finally bore fruit."

The mayor praised FIFA vice president Jack Warner for the tremendous support he has given to the team over the years.

Joining the sentiments was San Fernando Business Association president, Daphne Bartlett, who said, "This is something desperately needed for the country at this time." Bartlett said the association had supported the team from the beginning.

Former Attorney General, Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj, in offering congratulations to the Warriors, said Trinidad and Tobago had indeed been made proud by the success of the national team.

And the students of Naparima Girls’ High School put on a great show of support at the school’s auditorium.

The students, clad in red and white jerseys, flung their rags and flags in the air to celebrate the country’s victory. At the poplar Sea View Bar on King’s Wharf, some rolled around on the ground when the winning goal was scored.

The celebration took on the scene of a mini J’ouvert on Coffee Street, as hundreds feted through the night.

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