Of two minds | Watching the match by not watching the match

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Dwight Yorke. Oil on cardboard. Link to A Nation on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.Manama, Bahrain | “Reggae has been to the World Cup, samba has been to the World Cup—now it’s soca time.” So says an announcer on Trinidadian radio, as reported by blogger Nicholas Laughlin.

Six-foot-seven defender Dennis Lawrence could take credit for both of Trinidad & Tobago’s goals in the World Cup–qualifying tie with Bahrain. His second-half header off a corner kick sent the island into its first World Cup finals today; on Saturday, the player who joined the side due to Lawrence’s intervention, Chris Birchall (see Nov 15), scored the critical equalizer.

Today’s second leg commenced with Fox Soccer Channel commentators altering an earlier impression that T&T were the “Soccer” rather than “Soca Warriors.” “Soca” is shorthand for “soul calypso,” although this may be a gloss by musicologists.

One can trace island interest in the qualifier—neither T&T nor Bahrain has qualified for a previous World Cup finals—through Laughlin’s Web log. Laughlin, 30, of Diego Martin, Trinidad, edits the Caribbean Review of Books. As the match progressed, following the precedent established Saturday, Laughlin sustained a “not watching the match” commentary. Today, without a TV, he tried to listen to the match through a convoluted linkage involving Georgia Popplewell, music editor at Caribbean Beat, streaming the audio over an Internet telephony service. But it isn’t working. ” “It’s probably more exciting on radio,’ says Georgia on the phone. ‘They’re just running around.’ ”

Offices throughout Trinidad are closed as citizens taken an unofficial holiday. Caribbean Free Radio offers a 20-minute audio capsule related to the soccer fever (“The Podcaster’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick,” Nov 12), and rock singer and writer Gary Hector of jointpop weighs in during an interview with BC Pires of the Trinidad & Tobago Express. At a crossroads in his musical career, in 1989, Hector says the T&T campaign for the World Cup finals—during which, on the infamous date of 19 November, a late goal by the USA in Port-of-Spain crushed their hopes—“solidified Trinidad & Tobago to me. I found the country through the football team. Not some leader preaching something: my connection to my country came through football: yes, I am a Trinidad & Tobago person.”

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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