ROGER GUISEPPI was one of the best players we had ever seen. He was one year below me in high school, and almost from the first day he showed up, he seemed possessed with otherworldly ball control. He could dribble past anyone at anytime, almost effortlessly it seemed. He could tell you he was about to put it on you — and there was nothing you could do to stop it. Gip (that’s what we called him) had a signature dribble. We called it a sex. To us it was the greatest ignominy to bestow upon an opposing player — to slip the ball through his legs. It was the ultimate embarrassment. Wherever we were, if you could sex your defender, the field, the courtyard, the balcony over looking the gym, the fellas standing on the corner, all went ohhhhh!! And momentarily the game would take second place to the shit-talk that accompanied the move.
I grew up in the twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago. To date, we are the smallest nation to have qualified for the World Cup. With a population of 1.3 million, it seems miraculous that we’ve accomplished what we have. We’ve had an Olympic gold medalist in the 100-meters (Hasely Crawford 1976). We’ve had two Miss Universes. We’ve been part of the most dominant cricket team of all time. But Trinidadians are obsessed with soccer. We are obsessed with the beautiful game and obsessed with making it look beautiful at all times. Many of the teams we’ve produced have outplayed their opponent and lost 1-0; including the heartbreaking loss to the United States in 1989, when all we needed was a draw to make it to the World Cup in Italy in 1990. We lost that game 1-0, in Trinidad. The next year, an attempted coup dominated the headlines for many months. It is impossible to decide whether or not they’re connected.