By Zaid Mohammed, newsday.co.tt
CHAOS And confusion reigned last night as disappointed Bahrain football fans rioted after their national team lost 1-0 to Trinidad and Tobago in a crucial World Cup Finals play-off.
The victory on a 49th-minute header by defender Dennis Lawrence ensured the Warriors a spot in next year's World Cup in Germany after coming close on two previous occasions.
The home side were knocked out after drawing the first encounter 1-1 in Port-of-Spain last Saturday.
However, the TT victory was marred by angry Bahrain fans who ripped out seats and pelted security officers who sought refuge in the stadium tunnel.
More than 150 Trinidad and Tobago fans in Bahrain for the match looked on in horror and feared for their lives as the riot went unabated for almost 45 minutes.
Luckily no one was hurt as the TT fans were preparing for a dash to the Bahrain International Airport to board their charter flight back to the Caribbean along with the footballers who are expected to be welcomed home as heroes later today. Some of the players will be going to the United Kingdom to play for their clubs this weekend. Among them are Stern John and Russell Latapy, while skipper Dwight Yorke returns to play with the Sydney FC in Australia. After the agonising wait last night, police reinforcements arrived and quickly emptied the national stadium. Several persons thought to have been among the troublemakers in the melee were arrested.
The Trinidad and Tobago fans were herded onto the athletic track and advised by security officers that it would be unsafe to leave the stadium until an escort could be provided to prevent more ugly incidents.
About an hour and a half after the match ended, the Warriors' supporters were shepherded under the stadium and to the buses which sped away to their respective hotels.
Among those who witnessed these amazing scenes were President of Trinidad and Tobago, George Maxwell Richards, and his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards; FIFA vice-president Jack Warner; Olympians Hasely Crawford and Ato Boldon; Petrotrin chairman Malcolm Jones and NLCB boss Louis Lee Sing.
Although there was a threat to their safety, TT fans said they would not allow the disgraceful behaviour of a few Bahrain fans to spoil their joy or "freude" (the German word for joy). Trinidad and Tobago totally dominated the match, and missed several opportunities to score in the first half. Early in the second period, however, tall defender Dennis Lawrence rose high above the Bahrain defence to head down a Yorke right-side corner. The goal silenced the estimated 40,000 Bahrainis who had packed in at least three hours before the 7 pm kick-off and were whipped up into a frenzy by Arabic chants blaring through a loudspeaker. And a sign of things to come was evident as the clock wound down on the 90-minute regulation time marker and the frustrated Bahrain players resorted to scuffles with their Trinidad and Tobago counterparts. In one such incident, Colombian referee Oscar Julian Ruiz Acosta was cuffed in the face by Bahrain number 17 player Hussain Ali Hasan, who was red carded and ordered off the field just before the end of the match.
The Bahrain players' anger was inflamed when they thought they had scored a goal which was disallowed. The referee ruled that the ball had been kicked out of goalkeeper Kelvin Jacks' hands. When the whistle blew, signalling the end of the match and Trinidad and Tobago's realisation of a dream, the players rushed to one another and hugged, cherishing the moment even as the angry Bahrain fans started their mayhem.
After the match, Warriors' Dutch coach Leo Beenhakker said he was very happy to have played a part in getting Trinidad and Tobago to the World Cup Finals.
"The difference was that we scored and they didn't. I always said that it was going to be two hard matches, but the players stuck to their task and gave their best in the end," Beenhakker said.
The Bahrain coach said he wants to see the disputed goal again on television and would advise the country's authorities to complain to FIFA with a view to getting a replay.
German ambassador praises Warriors
German Ambassador, Helmut Ohlraun, yesterday congratulated the Trinidad and Tobago football team on its victory over Bahrain and qualication for World Cup 2006 to be held in his country. "It is an historic achievement for the Warriors and for the people of Trinidad and Tobago. I would like to congratulate the Warriors for their success and a well merited place among the World Cup participating countries.
It is a real chance to show themselves and Trinidad and Tobago to the world. It really is a moment of joy for the Warriors and Trinidad and Tobago." Yesterday staff at the German Embassy on Marli Street watched the game on television.
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