Rain after a long drought

 

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Category: Reflections Date: 20 Nov 05

 

Keep your eye on the ball; keep your eye on the ball, I half-muttered, half-whispered my father's mantra for life, my literal silent plea, as along with more than a million Trinidadians and Tobagonians in those last-longest two minutes recorded in the history of the world.

 

They did. We won. Trinidad and Tobago became the smallest country ever to qualify for the World Cup Finals.

 

A switch went on in this country. A floodlight drowned out the dull grey. Instantaneously, spontaneously. From Port-of-Spain to Cedros, Arima to Chaguanas, Laventille to Couva, Tobago to Tabaquite, people went wild with joy.

 

In that one second, all the hurt was swallowed up by joy. Ten and 15-year-old children, who have grown up with the sound of gunshots and fear, marvelled at the goodwill, at smiling, horn-blowing, happy strangers.

 

People in flooded areas, who had lost furniture, food and livestock, brought out their deckchairs and sat in water drinking rum and coke to celebrate victory.

 

The next day, thousands of people stood stoically in the rain waiting for hours for the players to come out to congratulate them. What are we really celebrating?

 

Everyone, from the Prime Minister down, said we really needed this at this time in our country. This victory felt like life-giving rain after a long drought.

 

Like a parched people, we came out in the streets, and held on to the victory like a lifeline. Yes, football is the biggest sport in the world. Yes, our Warriors have made it to the big league, the pinnacle of their career.

 

What is a tiny country like this celebrating? More than a game. We are celebrating what we always celebrate at times like this. A sense of disbelief, wonder, that once again we have delved into the ashes to emerge triumphant with a diamond.

 

How did these boys with a fraction of the coaching, facilities, finances, and government support that the Brazilians, the British take for granted, emerge with this diamond that will take us to Germany?

 

We are celebrating the fact that despite all the despair we have felt over our fractured and divided nation, our low productivity, our maligned carnival mentality, our high illiteracy and poverty, our quickening brain drain, our spreading dependency syndrome, that somewhere, when we really need it, we can find the discipline against the odds, to train as a team, perform under pressure, and achieve an international goal.

 

We are celebrating, because no matter how rough you call us as a people, we are among the most civilised in the world.

 

The Warriors, with their impeccable manners as hosts and guests, on the field and off, and their fans, were in marked contrast to the Bahrain team and supporters.

 

When Bahrain scored here, we sat in silence. Whenever we lose, there is no need for security. Not a seat is overturned, not a foreign player is threatened.

 

We are celebrating the fact that as our street celebrations spread like wildfire after news of the victory, we looked around, each of us, Chinese, African, East Indian, Syrian, Caucasian, and every permutation of these, and saw a patriot, a who, despite our grumbling, our leaving and returning, our flirtation with the countries of our ancestors, belong, here, only here.

 

The red we all wore was a talisman against every Machiavellian politician that pitted us against one another, against every grudge and stereotype we ever resorted to, because we were fearful of crime, of poverty, of the illiteracy around us.

 

We were able to separate the issues from people. We were able to see past the stereotypes we'd constructed towards people and found human faces.

 

We are celebrating because this victory has made us look with fresh eyes not at what we might lose, but what we have, a working democracy, a peaceable, tolerant people, even in our politicians who have put partisan interests aside to tackle the menace of crime.

 

We are celebrating because this victory by some precious warriors has restored hope and the strength to pick up our buckled selves and be all we can be.

 

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All Articles Copyright Ira Mathur