Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago | A cracking goal strike from some 25 yards elevated Trinidadian player Chris Birchall into cult status Saturday, enabling the Trinis to travel to Bahrain for the second leg of their World Cup qualifier level at 1–1. Birchall, who plays for Port Vale of Coca-Cola Football League One in England, is the first white player to number among the side in 60 years, and the only white player to have scored.
Birchall’s inclusion appears to have resulted from the scheming of CONCACAF boss and Trinidad native Jack Warner, who was aware of Birchall’s mother’s Trinidadian heritage; Warner arranged for a go-between to plant the seed in Birchall’s mind. Birchall joined the team in May.
“I wondered if the players would think, ‘Who’s this white lad trying to get in the team?’ ” Birchall said. “[L]uckily for me I’ve scored two worldly’s.”
Both Bahrain and Trinidad & Tobago would be first-time qualifiers. King Shaik Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has offered large bonuses to Bahrain should they succeed. Having defeated Uzbekistan in dubious circumstances in an Asian Football Confederation playoff just to get this far, one would be hard-pressed to bet against them.