By E. Glenford Prescott
Thirty-five years ago St Vincent and the Grenadines senior footballers made their debut in Caribbean Football Union (CFU) competition with a match against the French dependency of Martinique at Arnos Vale Playing Field.
The Elliot “Mori” Millington-led team, comprising whom many believe were some of the most skilful and fittest men ever to have worn the St. Vincent colours, fell behind 0-2 by the interval.
But with a “We can do it” call from captain Millington as he led his dejected team from the field at half time, the Vincentians, who were still living in the immediate aftermath of the eruptionof La Soufriere, put on a pyroclastic performance that saw them rallied to come away with a 2-2 draw. That performance was augmented by another in Suriname a few weeks later, when, battling substandard officiating, a hostile environment, and a seasoned home team, the Vincentians came victors — 3-2.
It must be noted that the nucleus of this team was made up of the U19 team, which overcame a 0-3 half time score against St. Kitts to rush to a 5-3 win five years earlier, also at Arnos Vale Playing Field.
Since those years, football fans here, have witnessed or listened to embarrassing “meltdown” by national teams, who have conjured unthinkable ways to manufactured ways to set up defeats, with matches against the same Martinique, Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica being fresh in the minds of supporters.
Their latest capitulation has left officials, administrators and some team members in a state of dismay after the team allowed a 3-1 lead with fifteen minutes to go end in a 3-4 defeat to Martinique.
The result, in reality a “French kiss of death”, meant that the Vincentians, who must have mentally seen themselves heading to the finals in Jamaica, crashed out of the tournament at the semi-final stage in Guadeloupe.
Heading into the match with a victory, their only chance of a berth in the final, the Vincentians looked set when the skilful pair of Corneilus Stewart (two) and Oalex Anderson (one) had breached the Martinique defence.
SVG were beaten 1-3 by host Guadeloupe and were able to edge out the always-troublesome Curacao, 1-0.
Other results in the group saw Martinique and Curacao playing to a 1-1, and the latter beating Guadeloupe, 2-1.
Curacao beat Guadeloupe 1-nil, to join Martinique as the other qualifier from group nine of the competition.
Following the 1979 and 1981 CFU success when they placed second to powerhouse Trinidad, SVG made to it the final stages of the CFU competition for five consecutive years under Millington, who had graduated to being coach of the team.
They also did so under Lenny Taylor and placed second to Trinidad after losing the finals 0-5 in the Cayman Islands.
This performance saw them advancing to the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1996.
This year the four top teams from the tournament will take automatic spots in the CONCACAF Gold Cup for 2015; and the fifth placed team will compete in a home and away playoff game against a fifth placed team from the Unión Centro Americana de Fútbol (UNCAF), the winner from this encounter will qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup competition.