White flight | Birchall makes Trini history with equalizer

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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.

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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