By Raffique Shah
July 07, 2018
You’d think with all the entertainment from and excitement over World Cup football in Russia, we’d be spared the drudgery of everyday crime, inexcusable lawlessness and political bacchanal at least for one month. After all, it seems that everyone is riveted to a television set somewhere on “match-days”, which have been every day, almost all day, over the past two weeks. In fact, football fever has intensified during the knockout matches that will climax when new champions are crowned on Sunday, July 15.
Hell, even I, notoriously prejudiced in my preferences in sports in favour of athletics, have found myself watching the tournament matches, glued to the television as if I were feasting on track and field events at the World Championships or Olympic Games. Oh, I’ve always enjoyed football. But I never thought I’d be so entranced by the game.
I have seen players I didn’t know anything about before mesmerise me with their skills and speed. And I have seen multi-million-dollar icons reduced to ordinariness, handed their exit tickets by some determined youngsters, their dreams of winning the coveted World Cup shattered. It must be painful for them to have performed superlatively at the highest levels of club football, only to falter when it mattered most—on the world stage.
Then again, that’s the nature of sports. We can say what we want about form being temporary and class permanent, tell that to teams like Germany and Argentina, or players like Messi and Ronaldo. Their unceremonious exit from Russia triggered for me memories of another time, 1966 to be precise, when I was training in England which hosted and won the World Cup that July.
I endured the agony of watching two of the greatest football legends, Pele and Eusebio, kicked out of the tournament, the former when champions Brazil did not get past the first round, and the latter booted by “Nasty” Nobby Stiles, a less-than-ordinary England player whose mission was to mark and kick Eusebio, not the ball, during the semi-final between England and Portugal. It was even more painful to watch referees allow Stiles to get away with flagrant fouls.
I should add that with live black-and-white television coverage in Britain, I enjoyed seeing stars such as Bobby Moore (captain) and Bobby Charlton (England), West Germany’s debutant Franz “The Kaiser” Beckenbauer, super goalkeepers Lev Yashin of the Soviet Union and Gordon Banks of England, as well as Brazilians Garrincha and Tostao.
Fifty-two years later, with television technology so advanced that it’s used to help the referees adjudicate, and with a galaxy of stars that are household names across the globe because of widespread coverage of myriad year-round competitions, viewing World Cup games has expanded to be universal, including here in Trinidad and Tobago—or so I thought.
It seems, though, that’s a misconception. Criminals and politicians, in whose fields of endeavour dividing lines are blurred, find the hype for football the perfect time to ply their mischief.
For example, bandits have taken to striking businesses that accumulate cash from their previous day’s sales as soon as they open up on mornings. They have worked out that such timing is perfect: the victims are very vulnerable, the cash is bagged and ready to go, and the police are still yawning from their previous night’s shift or sleep. These fellas clearly hold strategic planning sessions aimed at improving their efficiency, maybe even exceeding international best practices among global bandits!
They, and the murderers who “put down wuk” anytime, day or night, seem to be uninterested in the football. Or, given their mindsets, maybe they commit their crimes before matches so that they enjoy the best of both worlds, in a manner of speaking.
It seems, too, that the Keith Rowley regime is using the distraction of World Cup fever to resurrect the dead gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant at Petrotrin. I noticed that Energy Minister Franklyn Khan chose this time to promote a deal between the debt-ridden oil giant and another obscure company, some NiQuan, to resume work on what must be a mess of rusting steel at Petrotrin’s refinery.
Frankie reeled out a string of enticing numbers-US hundreds of millions in investment, billions in taxes in the lifetime of the plant, hundreds of jobs-that, to citizens concerned about the state of the economy, he hoped would sound attractive, even magical.
Not so fast, Frankie: the fundamental mistake government made regarding the GTL plant ten years or so ago was to have selected an unknown company, World GTL, to build and operate the plant. At around the same time, Shell partnered with Qatar Petroleum to build the biggest GTL plant in the world.
By 2012, when our relatively small plant was already in trouble, the Qatar plant was up and running, producing 200,000 barrels of GTL products per day—cleaner burning fuels and oils for advanced lubricants, etc. The Pearl plant, as it is named, sits on Qatar’s largest gas field—900 trillion cubic feet, in contrast to our total gas reserves that never exceeded 30 tcf.
Because of the stupidity of our decision-maker to partner with the obscure World GTL, we failed miserably. Now you want to compound a multi-billion-dollar mistake (??) by feeding us froth?
No, Frankie, not even World Cup stupor will numb us to this stink-gas emission you are trying to poops on us. Not one taxpayer cent must be spent on this misadventure.