Caledonia AIA midfielder Densill Theobald says winning 1-0 away in their first-leg Caribbean Football Union Club Championship first round qualifier against Newtown United of St Kitts/Nevis in Basseterre was more than a victory for the Caledonia AIA football team.
Speaking after the win at Warner Park on Thursday night, Theobald said, “It was like the start of the realisation of something deeper than a dream. More like a strong desire to get to the next level.
“This is the fourth year we were trying to qualify for this tournament and now winning our first game in it and away from home the feeling is special,” said Theobald.
Caledonia is one of the more financially challenged clubs in the Digicel T&T Pro league but has battled among the big guns over the years with measured success.
The Morvant/Laventille-based club finished fourth in the Pro League every year from 2005 to 2008. In 2008 they also won the Pro Bowl and the T&T Football Federation FA trophy.
After watching bmobile Joe Public, Jabloteh and W Connection compete in the Concacaf Champions League it stirred a passion in the Caledonia squad that made them forget their financial dilemmas.
“We may be short on finance but we have a huge ambition in the club and in 2009 we went out and really sought to qualify for the Caribbean Club Championships,” stated Theobald.
“It was a disappointment that we finished third especially when we know we are one of the teams that play an attracting brand of football. But we kept going and were encouraged by the gaffer (coach Jamaal Shabazz) to keep pursuing our dreams,” he added.
The 2010/2011 season did not start very well for Caledonia as it finished the first round in sixth position. Having introduced several new players and the constant absence of coach Jamaal Shabazz on national women’s team duties did not help the morale of the team either.
However, from November onwards everything seemed to come together for the “Stallions” as Caledonia is called, they won eight league games and lost once to eventual league winners Defence Force to finish second.
“No one saw us coming but I think the full time presence of coach Jamaal Shabazz to complement the rest of the staff made a huge difference,” stated Theobald.
“The commitment of the players was complimented by dedicated staff and a very caring club administration that went the extra mile for the group.”
Sacrificing festivities at Christmas and carnival according to captain Stephan David was also a contributor to Caledonia’s qualification for the CFU Club Championships.
“Shabazz insisted that we had to make the sacrifice and we did. Off course training on Boxing Day or on Carnival Tuesday felt a bit awkward—your friends and family thinking that you are mad—but we are happy now to see the results of our work,” explained David.
Caledonia receives sponsorship from both Neal & Massy and the National Lotteries Control Board and Shabazz believes that the input of these two corporate giants continues to be crucial to the club’s survival.
“We had to raise $83,000 for airfares alone to go to St Kitts/Nevis and got $50,000 from Neal & Massy, while NLCB contributes on a monthly basis to half of our wage bill.
“This provides a great degree of stability since we can pay our players and they can focus on football, if you close down Caledonia it will leave a huge void in terms of a positive recreational outlet in Morvant Laventille, “he insisted.
But Shabazz is calling on the people of Morvant/Laventille and east Port-of-Spain especially, to come out and support their team for the return match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, on Saturday from 7.30 pm where it needs only a draw to book a second round spot.
“I am appealing to Morvant and Laventille to come out and support us, join us in bringing a positive vibe to the community.
“Help us to win this game against Newtown. We have already made the first step and this is a long journey, come and make it with us,” urged Shabazz.