Who will be chosen Team of the Year for 2006? By Isaiah Chappelle
Guyana Chronicle
January 11, 2007

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WHO will be chosen as the Team of the Year for 2006, with credible achievements by the National football team, the Stanford Twenty20 winners, the junior Caribbean squash champions and the senior Caribbean Sevens rugby winners?

Many arguments will certainly be put forward for the eventual awardees, especially by the respective sport disciplines, but achievements should be carefully weighed in the selection.

Several persons seem already decided that the Stanford Twenty20 winners should be the awardees because it was an historic win worth US$1million, which drew additional funding to the development of the cricket.

Also, the team bounced back from being totally out of winning matches, like the one against Jamaica and the final against Trinidad & Tobago, underlining commendable character of the players and captain.

But had not a $200 million prize been dangling before their eyes, would the team persevere to the end to pull off such spectacular victories?

The others teams, however, did not have such an unprecedented prize to play for but sheer national glory.

Unlike the cricket team, which had funding from the organiser to prepare for the competition, the other disciplines had little or no funding from external agencies, but the resolve of their respective federations or associations.

The National football team barely had enough finance for limited camps and matches against foreign teams as they prepared for the Digicel Caribbean Cup championships.

They did not even have the support of the fraternity, who looked at them as another team that would have also participated in the international meet.

The first preliminary round was not even on local soil, but they thrashed nemesis Suriname, 5-0, whipped the Netherlands Antilles, 5-1, and avenged previous losses with a 1-0 win over Grenada to play unbeaten and top their group.

Then in the second preliminary staged at the GCC ground, Bourda, against supposedly more formidable teams, they again played unbeaten and topped the group.

They inflicted a 6-0 hammering on Antigua & Barbuda, turned back Guadeloupe 3-2 and beat the Dominican Republic 4-0. They scored 24 goals and conceded just three in preliminaries.

Guyana got the distinction of being the only country to play unbeaten in the preliminaries and accomplished an unbeaten 13-match winning streak, with two warm-up wins each over Dominca, St Lucia and Antigua & Barbuda, and one against Barbados.

The remarkable performance began with a 3-3 warm-up draw with Barbados, and included a win over professional team W. Connection of Trinidad & Tobago, and Guyana enjoyed an amazing climb on the world ranking ladder, jumping from 182 to 100.

In the eight-team finals that start tomorrow in Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana will face St Vincent & the Grenadines, Guadeloupe again and Cuba, and should be in the top two of the group to qualify for the semifinals, and automatically qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup to be staged in the USA in June.

That is a remarkable achievement from a team, whose support, the Trinidadian Technical Director Jamaal Shabazz said, could have been better.

While the senior sevens rugby teamís rise might not be as dazzling as the footballersí they created local history by becoming the first local side to win a senior Caribbean title, with players who graduated from the Youth & Schools Development programme, highlighting the importance of a nursery.

Moreso, these players do not enjoy any form of monetary incentive, either in local competitions or internationally. They play just for the love of the game on one playing venue that is usually rendered unplayable with the frequent flooding of the National Park.

Now six of those players are in line for selection on the West Indies team to play in the International Rugby Board (IRB)ís International Sevens series in San Diego, USA, next month.

No mean feat for a team whose parent body, the Guyana Rugby Football Union, has to borrow money to field the side in overseas engagements.

The junior squash team dominated the Caribbean tournament to take the overall title, back-to-back, making it a record 13 in the history of the tournament. The team got three individual titles, the most for the tournament.

Two players also later represented the country at the senior level in the Central American & Caribbean (CAC) games.

So, consideration for the Team of the Year should be tough task and panelists should be well informed on every detail of each teamís performance to make the awardee, a deserving awardee.