Defence Force, holders of the Digicel Pro Bowl, are keen on retaining the title, an achievement will see the Army/Coast Guard combination capture both knockout titles on offer in the shortened season after the First Citizens Cup.
Defence Force, who were crowned First Citizens Cup champions last December, will meet San Juan Jabloteh in what is expected to be one of the fiercest Pro Bowl quarter-final matchups determined by a seeded draw and revealed during this season’s launch on Wednesday at the VIP Lounge of the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain.
Quarter-final play kicks off next Wednesday with 2015 champions Central against St. Ann’s Rangers and W Connection against Police FC, from 6pm and 8pm, respectively, at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
On Thursday, again at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Ma Pau Stars will tackle Club Sando from 6pm before Defence Force, Pro Bowl champions of 2012 and 2016, and Jabloteh, champions of 2005 and 2006, clash from 8pm.
“We have soldiers that love knockout competitions,” said Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon, whose side sit mid-table on the league standings. “Three games and you can be [Pro Bowl] champions. I have every belief in my players and we are willing to give it everything we have.”
But former Pro Bowl champions W Connection and Central FC, who are in a tight race to the DPL crown on Sunday, are also eager to add the new-look trophy—unveiled at Wednesday’s official launch—to their cabinet.
“I like the trophy I’m seeing; it’s a very nice trophy and I will like to enhance our cabinet with this trophy,” said W Connection technical director/head coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier, who side were edged 2-1 by Defence Force in last season’s final. “And we will do everything in our power to win it, legally.”
Similar romanticism for the Pro Bowl title was echoed by Central FC head coach Dale Saunders, whose side are also one win away from a completing a historic Digicel Pro League three-peat when they face San Juan Jabloteh on Sunday.
Dexter Skeene, TT Pro League CEO, however, had earlier reminded that only the “Winner Takes All” — trophy and the accompanying TT$100,000in the season-ending Digicel Pro Bowl.
Skeene, in keeping with the tournament’s slogan, also revealed that only the Most Valuable Player of the final and champion coach will each receive a mobile handset, courtesy Digicel, and a $1,000 voucher from The Fan Club sports memorabilia and apparel stores.
Skeene said tournaments like the Pro Bowl brand extension builds the excitement and fan base of the Pro League. He said it motivates players and coaches to improve their craft, to be innovative, and give all teams something new and tangible to play for.
“We love the ‘winner takes all’ concept,” added Fevrier who led Connection to the 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2014 Pro Bowl—the most achieved by any team in the competition’s history.
Quarter-final winners will advance to the semi-final round on February 10 before the competition culminates with the final on February 19.
Central, Connection, Jabloteh, Ma Pau, Defence Force and Sando, based on their positions, in descending order, from 1 through 6 on the DPL standings after last weekend’s Round Two Match Day Eight fixtures earned automatic qualification.
Police and Rangers, meanwhile, needed to advance from the qualifier round on Tuesday night to occupy positions 7 and 8, respectively, in the seeded draw due to their bottom-four status on the DPL standings along with cellar-placed Point Fortin Civic and second-from-bottom Morvant Caledonia United.
Police annihilated Civic 9-0 before Rangers edged Morvant Caledonia 5-4 on penalties following a 0-0 draw in the qualifiers.
Christopher Edmond, Senior Sponsorship Officer at Digicel (Trinidad and Tobago Limited), said the 9-nil qualifying round result adds immediate excitement to this season’s edition.
Edmond reminded that Digicel saw the opportunity to play an instrumental role in the development of the sport of football.
He added, “Through the initiative of the Pro League we began to partner in programmes such as the one we are here to launch today – the Digicel Pro Bowl.
“Key to the way we do business as a company is the compulsion to give back and contribute positively to the communities we serve. Having already been in partnership at the Pro League level, it was a natural synergy for us to get involved in the Pro Bowl—the celebrated knockout tournament which has become one of the important staples on the national football calendar.”
Quarter Final Round
(Wednesday 8 February 2017)
Central FC vs St. Ann’s Rangers—6pm (A), Ato Boldon Stadium
W Connection vs Police FC—8pm (B), Ato Boldon Stadium
(Thursday 9 February 2017)
Ma Pau Stars vs Club Sando—6pm (D), Ato Boldon Stadium
San Juan Jabloteh vs Defence Force—8pm (C), Ato Boldon Stadium
Semi Final Round
(Sunday 12 February 2017)
A vs D (M), Ato Boldon Stadium
B vs C (N), Ato Boldon Stadium
(Sunday 19 February 2017)
M vs N, Ato Boldon Stadium
Eight to contest Digicel Pro Bowl and $100,000.
By Mark Pouchet (Express).
Defending champions Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force will attempt to repeat when they open their 2017 Digicel Pro Bowl campaign against San Juan Jabloteh in the second of a quarterfinal doubleheader at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, starting at 8 p.m. on Tuesday next.
Four-time winners and last year's losing finalists, DirecTV W Connection will also kick off their title search on Tuesday against an in-form Police team in the second of another quarterfinal doubleheader at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
The two are among eight clubs chasing the winner-take-all $100,000 purse.
Last year, W Connection lost out in a close 2-1 result to the TTDF in a hard-fought final.
Apart from four wins, W Connection are also four-time Pro Bowl runners-up and head coach Stuart Charles-Fevrier said they will not be taking the lawmen, who squashed Point Fortin Civic 9-0 in a qualifier at the Hasely Crawford Training Field Tuesday night, for granted. St Ann's Rangers emerged winners 5-4 on penalty kicks over Morvant/Caledonia United in the other qualifier.
“They (Police) are a very good team and I always say they can win on any given day, so we will not be taking them lightly,“ said Charles-Fevrier, adding that he liked the look of the brand new Pro Bowl trophy and would want to have it in his cabinet.
Coach of the defending champions Defence Force Marvin Gordon said that while his team was going through a tough patch in the league, he had “great belief in his soldiers” to redeem themselves in a very concise three-match tournament.
Central FC coach and former national player Dale Saunders, who is chasing a record three consecutive Digicel Pro League titles, said his unit had adopted a drive for victory this season. The Couva Sharks are separated by one point (44-43) over W Connection with one match remaining against 2005 and 2006 winners San Juan Jabloteh.
“We always try to win each match we play. We have a winning attitude and the approach to this tounament will be no different,” Saunders said.
The Sharks will tackle Rangers in the first of Tuesday's doubleheader at the Ato Boldon Stadium, from 6 p.m.
Ma Pau Stars will oppose Angus Eve's Club Sando at 6 p.m. at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on the same day.
The winner of the Central FC/Rangers match will face-off against the winner of the Ma Pau/Club Sando encounter in the first semifinal on February 10 at the Ato Boldon Stadium, while the winners of the W Connection/Police encounter will confront the victors of the Jabloteh/TTDF game in the second semifinal, on the same date and at the same venue.
The final is carded for February 19 at the Ato Boldon Stadium.
At the launch of the competition at the VIP Lounge of the Hasely Crawford Stadium yesterday, Digicel T&T Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene touted “the improved levels of professionalism of our young footballers and coaches who through the TT Pro League can aspire to live their ambitions and dreams,” as he saluted Digicel for their continued support.
Skeene also disclosed a new scheme will be employed which will see the best defender, best midfielder and best forward, from the winning team, receiving a trophy and a voucher worth $1,000.00, courtesy the Fan Club.
Christopher Edmond, Senior Sponsorship Manager at Digicel T&T said his company was proud to be the title sponsor of the competition for a sixth straight year, adding: “The Digicel Pro Bowl provides a platform for aspiring young footballers to learn and grow in the world's number one sport and I think it is safe to say that the Digicel Pro Bowl has become one of the most important events on the national football calendar.”