Our football forty years on
It is nearly forty-five years on since Dominica won the Windward Islands Football Tournament for the Popham Cup at Windsor Park in Roseau. To do so Dominica needed to beat Grenada, considered the strongest football unit in the Windwards. Dominica had up to that point never won that most prestigious tournament and most knowledgeable pundits very loudly pronounced that we could never produce what it takes to capture the trophy. One of those who begged to differ was your humble servant who boldly proclaimed that we would win. Supposedly, this was thought to be a manifestation of patriotism on my part. There were other supporting factors.
First significant element was my supreme belief in the players, and of even greater sobering consideration was the team's belief in itself. Our captain Oliver "PegLeg" Joseph kept drumming the message that nobody could stop us. Not even the drums brought mockingly to the match by certain parties to provide an intimidating background noise. I think it useful to go back in time just a little as the Windward's Football tournament is making a return to the regional scene after so many years of absence.
In goal was Roy "The Bird" Williams. Oliver Joseph and Calvin Steber manned the back four and Desmond Dewhurst, Irving Benoit better known as "Spraggs" and Dorian Simpson were the greater portion of the penetrating force up front. It was a time when Dominica, like the rest of the Caribbean had shifted to a four-two-four system. The new system supplanted the old two-three-five system. Two full backs had become four to provide greater protection of the goal. This meant two half backs were pulled back in full scale defense and one forward was withdrawn to midfield duties.
A crucially important element of our team was physical fitness. Embracing of this aspect was extremely well demonstrated when players willingly turned up for training during the Discovery Day or Statehood celebrations in early November of that year prior to the tournament.
Key measures in the team's fulfillment of its initiatives were Morris Aisles (nicknamed "Expensive") ability to make highly threatening runs down the wing back corridor.
His frequent forays were very well covered by his fellow defender Gordon Mondesire whose tackling skill made up remarkably well for some deceptively slow initial foot speed.
Getting the ball to Dewhurst, Benoit, Simpson, Cuthbert Williams and Brinsley Charles to strike at goal was very well assured. However, the final key to the puzzle was the installing of a foil to neutralize the effectiveness of Grenada's hard working and incisive striker Tyrone Harbin. To leave Harbin loose was to invite disaster. He had been known to score as many as four goals in a match, and equally effective was his ability to provide opportunities for his colleagues.
We needed a man capable and willing to stick assiduously to the job rendering Harbin redundant without fouling him, at least not near our penalty area. The one unanimously voted for the job was Chaucer Doctrove. His instructions — jokingly offered by some teammates were: "follow Harbin even if he goes to the toilet".
Chaucer took his assignment most seriously. Net result was Harbin touching the ball only twice: once at a kickoff and the other by his taking a throw-in. Most disastrous for the Grenadians was the total disruption of their previously fluid and penetrative play.
Dominica defeated Grenada 3-nil through the first by Dorian Simpson whose opener came almost directly from the starting kickoff. Dewhurst slotted home the second most neatly and Cuthbert Williams made good use of a counter attack to smash the net with a pile driver.
The impossible had been achieved —Dominica was the Windward Islands Football Kings. It was the work of three matches ending with the dethroning of Grenada, but the whole thing was culminating of a labour of love and devotion.
Dominica national team had trained almost daily for over three months. The team ran the flat roads. It ran the hills. It stuck to a serious exercise routine. It kept up with its demanding skills training and never faltered on blackboard discussions and strategy approaches.
What, too, had been incorporated firmly into the team's fundamental quality was a retention of its shape both in defense, and in attack. Players had willingly replaced solo efforts on the ball with tight controlled coordination which guarded possession jealously and made swift counter attacks by the opposition difficult.
Sadly, Dorian Simpson and Gordon Mondesire are no longer with us. They were two men who contributed greatly to our shining moment. We hope the present Dominica team reflects anything like the level of pride these men brought to their game when wearing a Dominica shirt. Best wishes to Dominica and best wishes for the longevity of the revived Windwards Tournament which commences here at Windsor Park at the end of April.