Trinidad and Tobago gripped by football fever


  • World
  • Monday, 05 Jun 2006

By Linda Hutchinson-Jafar

PORT OF SPAIN (Reuters) - Football fever has gripped Trinidad and Tobago, the smallest country to qualify for the World Cup finals in Germany. 

The former British colony is living up to its carnival reputation with parties celebrating the achievement of the Soca Warriors. 

Trinidad and Tobago's national soccer team is pictured before a friendly match against Czech Republic in Prague June 3, 2006. (REUTERS/David W Cerny)

Songs about the team are played constantly on radio, businesses are sponsoring competitions for jerseys and World Cup tickets and national flags are flying from cars. 

At the airport, five 25-foot (7.6-metre) figures representing characters from the popular annual carnival, dressed in red, white and black national colours with soccer balls dangling overhead, celebrate Trinidad and Tobago's first World Cup appearance. 

"Win, lose or draw, we're with our team," said Kevin Mohammed, who had a national flag draped on his car. 

Although not the first Caribbean nation to win a spot in the World Cup finals, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica have previously sent teams, Trinidad and Tobago, a twin-island republic of 1.1 million people, is the smallest. 

"Trinibagonians," as residents of the two islands call themselves, are making the best of their moment in the footballing sun. 

GERMAN EMBASSY 

Business at the German Embassy, set up 40 years ago in Port of Spain, has never been as good, with a steady stream of visitors looking to secure a visa. 

A spokesman said close to 3,000 visas had already been issued for the World Cup. 

The government is sending a 125-member contingent to promote the energy-rich country as a destination for business, culture and tourism in Dortmund, Nuremberg and Kaiserslautern, the three cities where the Soca Warriors will play. 

Book stores are reporting huge sales of English-German translation books. 

"All our translation books sold out a while ago. We've had to place new orders," said Cheryl Ali, manager of retail services at Nigel R Khan Bookstores. 

"We've also had a big rush for travel maps and guides for Germany." 

While Trinidad and Tobago may be underdogs, the Soca Warriors meet Group B rivals Sweden on June 10, England on June 15 and Paraguay on June 20, the republic seems intent on making its mark with memorable parties in Germany. 

Under the theme "Small Country, Big Passion," the cultural contingent wants to transform the German cities with huge street parades complete with steel bands and dancers. 

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