By RON FANFAIR
It was an unentertaining soccer final until early in the second half when a combination of Ivory Coast’s fragility in defence and St. Vincent & the Grenadines ruthless penchant to go for the jugular once they smell blood gave the match its final flurry of frenzied action and goals.
Kenlyn Gonsalves netted the game’s second goal from close range shortly after the break and Lexroy Bulze booted home his second goal of the match – he opened the scoring in the first half with a spirited sprint down the left side – to complete the goal tally against an Ivory Coast team that simply ran out of gas and options to stop a late offensive surge by their opponents.
“We started out flat because there were some guys who played earlier in the day and were not as fresh as I would have liked them to be,” said coach Frankie Mohammed after his team’s convincing 3-0 win in the first Canadian Cup of African Caribbean Nations (CCACN) final at Centennial Stadium in Etobicoke.
“But I knew with our conditioning and focus that we would be able to pull ourselves together as the match wore on and outplay our opposition which is exactly what played out today. Once we got the first goal, which was very important for us, it broke the spirit of our opponents and the field began to open up for us.”
Several members of the winning team represented their Caribbean homeland before migrating to Canada.
“This is an experienced group of players who know what it takes to win big games,” added Trinidad & Tobago-born Mohammed who is married to a Vincentian. “They love the sport and still enjoy playing competitively. I have coached some of the players for nearly 10 years, but I have been with this particular side for two years so I have a fair idea of what they can do. That’s why I did not get excited by their slow start today because I knew they knew they were in a final and would rise to the occasion.”
St. Vincent & the Grenadines reached the final by disposing of Eritrea 3-1, Nigeria 7-1, Grenada 5-0 and holding Angola to a 1-1 tie. The Ivory Coast, on the other hand, defeated Sierra Leone, Cameroon and Somalia on their way to the final.
A total of 17 teams – they were inserted into four groups with Congo being the floater – participated in the inaugural competition.
“I am very satisfied with the way in which the tournament went,” said CCACN organizing committee chair Ammar Kamara who represented the Sierra Stars for four seasons in the Toronto Services Soccer League.
“There is an abundance of skilled and highly talented players from Africa and the Caribbean competing in various leagues around the city. The aim of this tournament was to have these players compete in a tournament organized by the Caribbean and African communities.
“This first competition exceeded my wildest dreams and we will now go back to the drawing board and see how we can build on the success of this year. Obviously, we will try to get more teams so that as many Caribbean and African countries can be represented.
We will also consider bringing performing artists from those parts of the world to perform on game day and putting on an all-star game for charity.”
In addition to winning the championship trophy, the Vincentians were also awarded a $2,000 cash prize.