PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad
TRINIDAD and Tobago is hyped up to deal with the anticipated fireworks of the Shell Caribbean Cup, set to start here Sunday.
Competition banners, placed all along the route from Piarco Airport to downtown Port of Spain, tell a story of a country, in the mood for, and well prepared to take on Caribbean football's number one tournament. Little boys in the streets brighten the surroundings with national team jerseys of Trinidad and Tobago.
Schoolgirls on holidays are deeply involved with some of the paper work that goes into the organizing of the tournament, and not even the steady rainfall in Port of Spain and Arima, the locations for Shell Cup games, has dampened the spirits of football lovers.
In almost every building one enters, there is talk of the Shell Cup finals — whether it is the apparent "setback" to the National team due to the absence of their four top players — forwards Leonson Lewis and Dwight Yorke, midfielder Russell Latapy and defender Marvin
Faustin, or the big question of whether or not upsets will be the order of the day, as happened in the 1990 World Cup.
Most Trinidadians however believe the local team already has this one in the bag. Trinidadian journalist, David Lamy's description of the situation sums it up aptly.
"They think it's no big thing. Most Trinidadians feel their footballers should be able to take care of all the other teams.
"After November 19 when the team lost to the USA in the World Cup play-off game, Trinidadians felt the Caribbean Championship is not as strong a tournament for the national team.
"With the possible exception of Martinique and Jamaica, whom they have not played recently, the other teams — Barbados, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines should be easy to beat as far as Trinidadians think. They all feel it is a forgone conclusion."
All six teams moved into the team hotel - the Valley Vue Thursday and all seem well with them in terms of morale.
None of the finalists have reported serious injury to their declared squad members. Jamaican captain Anthony Corbett, who hurt his shoulder in a recent game, is now ready again for combat likewise midfielder Lenny Hyde who had a leg injury earlier on.
Number one seeds Barbados play Martinique in the competition's opener at 5 p.m., Sunday, followed by a repeat of last year's final - Grenada vs defending champions Trinidad and Tobago at 7 p.m., at the National Stadium.
Jamaica bow into action with their first Zone 'A' game on Tuesday, July 24, against Grenada.