Good sense tells that the 2015 First Citizens Cup will definitely be a thrill for everyone, including the spectators.
Launched on Monday 28 September at the VIP Lounge of the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain, the 2015 First Citizens Cup will get underway on Wednesday 30 September with two match-ups in the qualifying round.
Based on a random draw overseen by TT Pro League Chief Executive Officer Dexter Skeene, four (4) of the ten (10) Pro League teams will try to claw their way out of the qualifying round towards the ultimate prize of $110,000 – a ten thousand dollar increase from last season’s amount – to the champions and $20,000 for the runners-up.
Two-time (2013 & 2014) defending champions Central FC and last season’s 1-0 defeated finalists North East Stars must face each other in Qualifier Two from 8 pm on Wednesday at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in a repeat of the 2014 final.
Two hours earlier (6 pm) at the same venue, it will be a clash of former winners San Juan Jabloteh (2000 & 2003) and Defence Force (2002 & 2009) in Qualifier One.
New Central coach Ross Russell said he is under no pressure to succeed, having won the title back in 2009 as coach of Defence Force.
English coach Terry Fenwick led Central to the club’s overall inaugural title with the 2013 First Citizens Cup and in 2014 Serbia-born coach Zoran Vranes led the “Couva Sharks” to the title defence.
Speaking during Monday’s launch, Russell insisted, “It’s no pressure for me; I’ve already won it. It have my name on it already.”
Instead, Russell believes his team’s qualifying round opponents, North East Stars, should be the ones worried, saying that he is the new coach at Central.
“It’s way down in the qualifying round and we are looking to stay on top as a club,” said Russell who, in pre-season, took over last season’s seven-title winning Central, inclusive of the Digicel Pro League (DPL) and Caribbean Club championship.
“I’m going all guns for it, don’t matter where we play or who we play,” continued the two-time DPL winning coach with Defence Force.
“It’s difficult having to play from the qualifying round. But its (how) the draw went and we have to accept it. We as a club have represented ourselves well and we are entitled for any challenge.”
The quarterfinal round, scheduled for Friday 16 October, pits six-time (2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 & 2008) winners W Connection versus Point Fortin Civic; St. Ann’s Rangers versus newcomers Club Sando; Police FC versus the winners of the North East Stars/Central FC clash; and two-time (2011 & 2012) winners Morvant Caledonia United versus the winners of the San Juan Jabloteh/Defence Force clash.
The semi-final and final rounds are scheduled for October 23 and 30, respectively.
The defunct Joe Public remains the only other team in the history of the tournament to have won the First Citizens Cup, capturing the title in 2010.
Meanwhile, six years have passed since W Connection have lifted the First Citizens Cup, once nicknamed “The W Connection Cup” having won the title five times consecutively.
Now this time around assistant coach Earl Jean said the “Savonetta Boys” are looking forward to victory over Point Fortin Civic in the quarter-final round towards going all the way in returning the crystal trophy back to their cabinet.
When quizzed about his team’s motivation this time around, the former Connection and St. Lucia striker exclaimed, “That’s a lot of money!”
First Citizens has pumped $230,000 into the running of this season’s edition. Apart from the $110,000 and $20,000 to the champions and runners-up, respectively, the First Citizens Cup will also see the Most Valuable Player and Top Goal Scorer receive, for the first time, crystal boot awards along with $1,000 each.
Spectators weren’t left out, as flat screen televisions are among door prizes during the semi-final and final rounds while other giveaways will happen throughout the tournament.
A cheerleading competition will also take place on the final day as First Citizens, now in their centennial year, continues to lift the bar.
“This is us (First Citizens) continuing to support,” said deputy chief executive officer of business generation at First Citizens, Jason Julien, during his remarks at Monday’s launch. “(…)but we want you (the clubs/players) to deliver; deliver in terms of talent, fair play, and give everyone a notch up in terms of bringing football to the level of development.”
In aligning with the philosophy of one of his favourite managers in world football, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Julien advocated that the focus must be on building a club and not just a team.
Julien added, “His (Ferguson) objective was building a club and he defined that club as having a production line and it starts with what happens in the reserves, what happens in the academy, what happens on the training field, what happens in the back office and what happens on the field in the senior team in terms of performance.”
Julien also told Monday’s gathering to not only develop in the First Citizens Cup tournament but in the league as a whole, the national teams and in the generations of football to come.
“That is critical. That is why First Citizens is here. It is why we have put our money where our mouth is and have invested in the Pro League for the past 13 years. We truly believe this is the way to develop the future talent of our country. If we didn’t have the Pro League and if we didn’t continue to put our money where our mouth is, we wouldn’t see the fruits that we are seeing today,” concluded Julien, who stated that a key part of our society has to be sport and the development of sport.
Skeene, who again applauded the success of First Citizens as the first indigenous bank, said, “We at the Pro League are pleased to have you (First Citizens) as a partner, as an example, as a forerunner to look at, model ourselves after and take a page out of your book, that we, as well, if we believe, plan wisely, employ the right people, execute our ideas effectively, can deliver the same results eventually.
“We thank you (First Citizens) for your vision in seeing the prospects and possibility in a professional league. Thanks for believing that we can also be like you and have a successful business using our local and indigenous talent.
“The First Citizens Cup is a premier tournament in the football calendar. It is designed to create and challenge our coaches and players to continually produce a quality football product. It requires our teams to keep the intensity throughout due to the high stakes on offer and their being something to always compete for.”
Echoing the words of Celtic FC Chief Executive, Peter Lawwell, Skeene said: “in any successful league you need to have that something to play for feeling for supporters in a domestic situation” and “there is a direct correlation between winning, entertaining football and commercial success.”
The Pro League CEO went further to add, “The First Citizens Cup incorporates these two statements in that it is designed to give stakeholders the something to play for feeling and also produce winning entertaining football.
“I encourage the clubs to play high level, attractive football, encourage your communities to support you while you compete for the monies and prizes at stake in this years’ First Citizens Cup.”
First Citizens Cup Qualifier Round
Wednesday 30 September 2015
San Juan Jabloteh vs Defence Force—6 pm
North East Stars vs Central FC—8 pm
Quarter Final Round
Friday 16 October 2015
St. Ann’s Rangers vs Club Sando
W Connection vs Point Fortin Civic
Police FC vs Winner of North East Stars/Central FC
Morvant Caledonia United vs Winner of San Juan Jabloteh/Defence Force
Semi Final Round
Friday 23 October 2015
Friday 30 October 2015