SAN JUAN JABLOTEH have defied the odds and have advanced to the quarter-final stage in their first try at the Scotiabank CONCACAF Under-13 Champions League.
Jabloteh next go into action tomorrow against the winners of a fiercely contested Group B which contained Menor Tijuana (Mexico), Comunicaciones FC (Guatemala) , Liga Deportiva Alajuelense (Costa Rica) and the already eliminated Vancouver Whitecaps (Canada) who lost their first two matches by 2-0 margins to Comunicaciones FC and Alajuelense.
Yesterday, the Trinidad and Tobago youth football champions lost a Group A top-of-the-table decider 3-1 to group favourites Buhos de Hermosillo in Mexico where the tournament, is being held but advanced as the second-placed team in the group.
Jabloteh opened the tournament on Saturday with a 2-1 win over Real Esteli of Nicaragua, before holding Jamaica's Harbour View to a 1-1 draw.
Harbour View needed to beat the Nicaraguans and hope for a huge win by the Mexicans to advance as the second team in the group. Having lost their opener 7-0 to the Mexicans, Harbour View succeeded in beating Real Esteli 3-1 yesterday to finish on four points along with Jabloteh, but ended third on an inferior goal-difference.
Jabloteh have been the dominant team at this age group in T&T for the last two years, winning at Under-13 level in the Flow Youth Pro League in 2015 and at Under14 level in the same competition this year.
Coach Anthony “Dada” Wickham expected his side to come up against stronger teams than they regularly played against at home but expected his charges to learn a lot.
Jabloteh headed to Mexico with a contingent of 16 players, plus coach Wickham, manager Susan Farrell, senior Jabloteh head coach Keith Jeffrey, chairman Jerry Hospedales and club administrator Azad Khan.
“We are going to try and see how much we can learn,” Wickham said before departure. “It's going to be a learning curve, because some of these teams have already played in the CONCACAF tournament before, while this is our first time going out. But it's going to be a nice experience for the youngsters.”