The women’s team of Trinidad & Tobago and the men’s team of Mexico were the winners of the 21st Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games.
By Derek Sandison, PAHF Representative
There were 8 women’s and 8 men’s teams taking part including Panama men playing international hockey for the first time; Guyana women and Jamaica men playing again after a lapse of many years of financial constraints; and Netherlands Antilles men emerging from eligibility restructuring after a two year absence. Unfortunately, Cuba declined to participate in the entire Games and their teams were missed in the hockey event. The tournament provided an excellent opportunity for the participating teams to get much needed competitive playing experience and for the many new and developing umpires and technical officials to gain knowledge from their more experienced colleagues. A coaching course was also run by PAHF in conjunction with the tournament.
The tournament began under very trying circumstances particularly relating to accommodation, transport and facilities. These same difficulties forced soccer to withdraw from Puerto Rico and play their tournament in Venezuela. Hockey, however, showed resilience and, on behalf of PAHF, a sincere appreciation is extended to the teams, officials and volunteers for working together positively to complete the tournament.
The hockey was played in Caguas at a baseball stadium where the dry turf and field layout were far from ideal for quality games. Torrential rain on the first 2 days caused match delays but improved the playing surface! It should be noted that, in spite of the difficult conditions, there were no red card issued during the matches.
In the Women’s section, the less experienced teams struggled to score goals and many matches were decided on a 1-0 result. However, Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) and Mexico emerged undefeated from the pool matches and were convincing winners of their semi-finals. However, the final produced a disappointing effort from Mexico leaving Trinidad worthy winners at 4-0 with their captain, Stacy Siu Butt and top scorer, Blaire Winne providing the experience and goals. The bronze medal match between Barbados and Dominican Republic (DR) was crucial in that the winner would go forward along with Mexico (hosts) and T&T to next year’s Pan Am Games. Although DR, with a new Argentina influence, made it close for a while, Barbados came away with a worthy 3-1 victory and the bronze. In identical close matches of 1-0, Puerto Rico beat Bermuda for 7th and Jamaica prevailed for 5th against Guyana in a match that could have gone either way.
In the men’s section, there were many goals scored as Panama struggled in their first appearance to keep their score line at a meaningful level. T&T, with a Dutch coach, emerged as the powerhouse from Pool A with superb penalty corner execution while Mexico, with a new approach of better physical conditioning, also dominated Pool B. They both continued undefeated to meet in the final with T&T gaining an easy 5-0 victory over Netherlands Antilles while Mexico was pushed to the end to beat Barbados 3-1. The final day provided some interesting results. Jamaica seized the opportunity to run up a 13-0 score against Panama for 7th place. Dominican Republic, coming from behind, eventually took 5th place against Puerto Rico on penalty strokes after an exciting 4-4 tie. Barbados men secured 3rd place and qualification for the Pan Am Games with a 3-0 victory over a Netherlands Antilles side that showed improvement as the tournament progressed. The final produced a surprise result in that T&T had looked unbeatable but Mexico came out blazing with Pol Moreno, scoring an audacious goal in the 1st minute. T&T however didn’t panic and were quickly level led by the quality mid field play of their captain Kwan Browne stopping for top scorer, Wayne Legerton, to convert yet another PC. The teams traded a further goal each but the Mexican keeper, Moisés Vargas, came up with many fine PC saves to keep his team close until their outstanding scorer, Francisco Aguilar, notched the winner on a PC in the last few minutes. T&T players were unable to respond and Mexico celebrated enthusiastically as the gold medal winners with both teams ready to meet again in the Pan Am Games next year to continue the rivalry.
For more information, please click here to access the Pan American Hockey Federation website.
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