|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 59 - Monday June 21, 2004|
|Mexico Defeats Dominica in World Cup Qualifier (Click at end of article for photos) |
It was certainly a day to remember as the Dominican football team ran unto the field amidst the cacophonous sounds of fifty thousand screaming Mexican fans mixed with the shouts of three hundred proud Dominican patriots.
The rest of the time we would rather forget. At the end of the first half the score: Mexico- 5, Dominica – 0. The agony would continue into the second half with a final score of 10 – 0.
But really, who cares about the score? Coming into the game we were convinced that nothing short of a miracle could save the day for Dominica. Mexico is ranked sixth in the world, Dominica one hundred sixty-six. In the end, the lads from Nature Isle played their hearts out against a very formidable opponent.
Sunday’s game signaled the beginning of the end for Dominica’s World Cup dreams. It was one to remember. The fit, athletic side coached by Don Leogal had proved too much for its other Caribbean opponents. In seven previous matches, they had lost only to Barbados 1 -0. In their two matches before taking on Mexico they had soundly defeated the Bahamas.
Against Mexico, the bar was raised high, really high. I spent the hour before the game following the team as they warmed-up, spoke to the press, and prayed in the locker room. To a man, they were playing for the pride of their beloved country. Their Cinderella rise to the pages of football history was not lost on them.
The kids from obscure villages in Dominica with names like Bagatelle, St. Joe, Grand Fond, and La Plaine were suddenly thrust into the glare of the world stage. The press coverage was unrelenting. Their hotel no solace from the crush of reporters, camera men and curious Mexican fans seeking autographs.
Waving my flag on the way to the Alamo Dome, I encountered the likable, fun-loving Mexican soccer fans who could not get enough of Dominica as they posed for pictures, smiled, waved, and wished us well. Como... no this not the Dominican Republic......Dominica? “We love you Dominica......You guys are great”. Yes they loved us. Loved it even more when with two minutes left in the game they started the loud shout of DIAZ...TEN.....TEN... In the end they got it 10 – 0.
Not the score again. It is over. We played our way to history. The celebration must start. Dominicans joined in celebrating with the Mexicans. We beat their drums, danced with them, chanted, held hands, and swapped flags. I stripped away my Dominica t-shirt and sent it high into the air as dozens of hands reached up to snatch it. See, it’s more than the score, more than the game.
They wanted a piece of us. The island that sounds Spanish, yet speaks only English. The smiling Dominican fans clustered in section 144, who at half time, with the game clearly put away were jumping and shouting like we had just won the World Cup. The Mexicans liked our spirit, because we kept smiling, kept up the chant of “lets go DA”. When we missed our first goal around the 80th minute, we behaved like real fans, shucks, disappointment multiplied. Does it matter that the score sounds more like a baseball inning rather than a football score?
What really mattered to us was that we had achieved a significant milestone in spite of excruciatingly difficult circumstances. Consider this. Three of the eleven players come from the village of Grand Fond where they play football on a ‘field’ littered with rocks, no grass, and just hard dirt. There is currently no football field in the capital and the best field is in Grand Bay. In short we have zero facilities. Just naked talent and a wonderful Dominica spirit of ‘can do’.
Three players were injured practicing on the artificial turf that they had never seen before. On game day, they played with the same shoes that they’ve always played with. Completely unsuited for such a surface. Without funds, the Football Association could not replace their shoes. So, they miskicked, slipped and fell. Then there were the maddening screams of fifty thousand Mexicans and the controlled play of a Mexican team whose involvement in the World Cup goes back to its inception. Added to that, while the Mexican team was safely sequestered miles from San Antonio, our lads were thrown to the press, day after day.
The team is now better after this experience. They have learned a thing or two. Progress is never certain, always slow. I cannot begin to explain the expression on the faces of a few Mexican fans when I explained deliberately that our players were all part-time. No one gets paid. It’s all for the ‘love of the game’. Angol, the young outstanding goal keeper, who were it not for his heroics, the score would have been 20 – 0 had given up on football so he could focus on his job. The farmers, fishermen and construction workers who make up the team often practice after a hard day’s work of manual labor.
Always we move on, never satisfied with where we are. We’ve beat the odds in the past, and we will continue to do so in the future. If nothing else, this game reminds us of the remarkable wealth of natural athletic talent that resides in Dominica. The score beckons us to do more, much more to give this talent a chance to flourish at its highest potential.
Editor's Note: The next leg will be played in Mexico on Sunday June 27, 2004 and will be carried "Live" by Telemundo from 1 pm Eastern Time.
VIEW IMAGES courtesy of Lynton Scotland and Thomson Fontaine
Team Captain - Shane Marshall
Locker room action
locker room action
Captain with Logo
Warm up time
Angol- Super Goalie
Of Crowd and Flags
Half time respite
After the game
Time to Pray