Arunabha Sengupta recounts the infamous 1994 showdown between Barbados and Grenada, featuring a deliberate own goal and a side trying to score at both ends

From the heart-breaking moment when Mario Mandžukić deflected Antoine Griezmann’s freekick into the Croatian citadel to give France the lead in the World Cup final 2018, to the literally life-ending case of Andrés Escobar putting the ball into the Colombian net against United States in 1994, own goals are always embarrassing and, to various degrees, tragic.

True, there have been cases when it has bordered on poetry. Such as when Tony Popovic produced the lovely right-footed flick to help Portsmouth winger Steve Stone’s cross clip the far post and go into the Crystal Palace goal. But they have almost always been involuntary acts of chance that have left the scorer red-faced.

The key word there is ‘almost’.

There have been freak moments when this has done voluntarily, but generally by mistake. For example, when Dennis Evans of Arsenal thought that he heard the final whistle signaling a 4-0 win against Blackpool, at Highbury in 1955, he kicked the ball into his net in celebration. Only, the whistle had come from somewhere in the crowd. A confused Arsenal side had to carry the ball to the centre and restart the match before it ended a few seconds later with a 4-1 scoreline.

Of course there have been infamous occurrences of disgruntled players putting balls into their own goals again and again as sorts of protest. Such as when the Stade Olympique l’Emyrne side did so against AS Adema in Toasmasina, Madagascar, 2002. The end result was 149-0 in favour of AS Adema, but the scoreline was the actual result of anger vented at a refereeing decision in their previous match.

However, there have also been rare occasions when the rules and the format have necessitated own goals scored perfectly voluntarily.

Trying to score at both ends

One such case was the Shell Caribbean Cup 1994 encounter between Barbados and Grenada, one of the weirdest football matches ever contested.

Much of it had to do with the curious rules. The organisers had decided that the matches that remained tied after full time would be decided with the golden goal, but with a caveat. The first goal scored after the stipulated time would not only win the match, but would also be counted as two goals.

Group 1 of the draw consisted of Grenada, Barbados and Puerto Rico. On January 23, Puerto Rico defeated Barbados by a solitary goal. A couple of days later, Grenada and Puerto Rico remained tied goalless at the end of the full time before the former team scored in the extra time to clinch a victory. Only, it counted as a 2-0 scoreline.

Hence, when Barbados and Grenada met in the final match of the group stage in the Barbados National Stadium, Barbados needed to win by a two-goal margin to top the group and qualify for the next round.

The side started well, going 2-0 up and almost securing their place in the second round.

However, in the 83rd minute, they conceded a goal and it became 2-1. That meant Grenada had to play out the next seven minutes without conceding a goal to get into the final.

For a couple of minutes Barbados tried their best to regain the two-goal lead, but were met with stubborn defence. And this, aided by the strange rule of the competition, made them switch their approach.

Their thought process was clear. If they went into the extra-time and won by the golden goal, they would achieve the two goal advantage. And if the match was taken into the extra-time, it would give them more time to get that elusive goal, rather than the few minutes they had now.

Hence, defender Terry Sealey passed the ball to goalkeeper Horace Stoute, who passed it back to Sealey. And after a few such passes between the two, Sealey kicked the ball into the Barbados net.

It was 2-2, with three minutes remaining. And due to the ridiculous rule, a goal scored at either end in the remaining time would pitchfork Grenada into the next round. If they won 3-2, Grenada would go through automatically. If Barbados won 3-2, they would go through on goal-difference.

A period of awkward football got underway. Grenada looked to score a goal, regardless of which net they put the ball into. And Barbados desperately defended both the ends.

The Barbados side succeeded. The  90-minutes of this unusual game ended with the teams tied 2-2.

And all this effort at ingenious creativity bore fruit. Barbados scored in the fourth minute of the extra-time with Thorne blasting it into the Grenada goal. The end result was 4-2. And Barbados, with 4 goals for and 3 against, went through to the next round.

What followed

James Clarkson, the manager of the Grenada side, said that he felt cheated. He vented in the press conference: “The person who came up with these rules must be a candidate for a madhouse. The game should never be played with so many players running around the field confused. Our players did not even know which direction to attack: our goal or their goal.”

Barbados finished third in the next round. Eventually, it was Trinidad and Tobago who emerged the champions.

The rules were never experimented with again.

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