APRIL 2013; KINGSTOWN, SAINT VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES – Once again Grenada through superior physical fitness and a failure by Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to convert the numerous chances, were crowned the 2013 Windward Islands Football Champions last week at the Victoria Park in Kingstown, Saint Lucia.
With Saint Vincent and the Grenadines needing a four-clear goal victory margin to claim the title, or a victory by another margin to record some face-saving points, they failed to convert…repeatedly.
On a surface lacking the best conditions, the beautiful game couldn’t be played with any level of attractiveness, and the two teams, were engaged in a virtual bite-for-bite slugfest; only the fittest and hungrier of the two would emerge still wearing their skins.
Vincentian hearts dropped through the floor when Kenyan Lynch the goalkeeper for the hosts, spilled the ball onto his own goal line, but was sufficiently alert to quickly recover and smother the ball before any of the marauding forwards pounced.
The Grenadians were quicker to the ball, closing down the Vincentians before they collected a pass, and drove the ball through the waterlogged conditions with greater purpose.
The Vincentians although mounted wave after wave of attack, lost their bearings even when presented with just Grenadian custodian Jason Belfond to contend.
The two teams went into the break with scores tied at nil-all. Following the resumption, the Vincentians still had not adopted the necessary strategies to drive the ball through the muddy and glue-like surface, which kept the ball from travelling any considerable distance, but kept tapping the passes as if they were playing on a dry Victoria Park pitch.
Then disaster struck the Vincentian defense. Denron Daniel latched onto a pass, and coolly headed past goalkeeper Lynch to send the Grenadians into a 1-nil in the 76th minute.
With time against them, their football pride at stake the Vincentians threw the bathtub along with the bath water and baby, the kitchen sink and all dishes, along with everything in the tool shed at the Grenadians but nothing gave.
Not even the introduction of Azinho Solomon changed the score line although he did create chances and had a few of his own, but as the rain fell to the earth, so were the Vincentian chances of regaining some pride.
When Referee Trevor Taylor of Barbados blew the final whistle, it was the Vincentians who celebrated, the Saint Lucians who were praying for a Vincentian victory to claim the tile had to accept their fate as the Windward Islands football silver princes, while the Grenadians partied away as 2013 Windward Islands Football Champions…once again.
Earlier in the previous encounter, Saint Lucia had already dented Vincentian pride with a 2-1 victory, after experiencing an embarrassing start against the SVGFF President’s XI.
Not seeing the game as of academic relevance to them, the SVGFF President’s XI came out with guns blazing, shocking the Saint Lucians within seconds of Referee Valman Bedeau of Grenada blowing the opening whistle.
Kevin Small found space in the Saint Lucia defense and without any hesitation, sent Vincy Heat into pandemonium.
However, such was short-lived when Geralanne Neptune returned the favour to equalize the scores in the second minute. Following the fireworks in wet conditions, both teams settled to play as attractively as possible, conditions permitting.
The muddy, sticky surface negated the Saint Lucians passing game who still found the time and space to dribble and create numerous holes in the Vincentian middle, but the defenders aided by the conditions were able to keep the attackers at bay.
Then Jamil Joseph tweaked his compass to suit the conditions, scored what is arguably the goal of the tournament. He collected a ball just outside the area, turned the Vincentian defender inside, left him floundering in the mud, hesitated momentarily as goalkeeper Marlo Marshall committed himself and then calmly placed the ball through the rapidly diminishing space between the goalkeeper’s body and the ground to send the Saint Lucians into a 2-1 lead in the 15th minute.
The rest of the half continued with many exchanges but neither team was able to score.
The second half was of the same football fare until the final whistle was blown; the SVG President’s XI although losing the game, gave a credible performance that kept the Saint Lucians on their toes.
This left many spectators hoping that the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines National team would capitalize on, but while the Grenadians were out warming up in the pouring rain, the Vincentians were ensconced in their dressing area, enjoying the warm.
Sheldon Emmanuel of Saint Lucia was voted the Tournament’s MVP, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines third without a point to their name, Saint Lucia the silver princes in second place with three points; and Grenada the 2013 Windward Islands Football kings with six points.