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For one Pro League football team, October 5 will be a special day. They will have an $80,000 cheque in hand, a beautiful crystal statue, and the pleasure of being crowned the 2012 First Citizen Cup champions.

Yesterday, the 13th edition of Trinidad and Tobago's most popular knockout football competition was launched at the Queen's Park Oval.

Action will kick off tomorrow when holders Caledonia AIA begin the defence of their title. Caledonia will face last year's beaten finalists T&TEC in the 8 p.m. second match of a Hasely Crawford Stadium double-header.

Earlier at 6 p.m., St Ann's Rangers will face North East Stars in the opening match. There is also a quarter-final double-header in Marabella at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, where six-time First Citizens Cup champions W Connection face Police at 6 p.m., while South football fans will get a first look at the new Central Football Club team when they face Defence Force in the 8 p.m. second match.

Last Year, Caledonia won the First Citizens Cup for the first time when they beat T&TEC by a 2-1 margin.

And AIA head coach Jamaal Shabazz was already boasting yesterday that they were looking past T&TEC and forward to a semi-final meeting with North East Stars who shocked them 3-1 in their Pro League opening match last week.

Stars coach Angus Eve countered that he too would beat Rangers and then he was looking forward to beating Caledonia AIA again.

"Jamaal....I beat him in Guyana. I don't know how to beat him again," former national footballer Eve quipped.

At yesterday's launch, it was revealed that the competition's winners will pocket $80,000, while the beaten finalists will win $20,000, all part of a $350,000 sponsorship package from the local bank.

Speaking at the launch, Warren Sookdhar, Chief Information Officer at First Citizens, confirmed the financial organisation's continued commitment to the competition which was first played in 2000 when San Juan Jabloteh defeated Defence Force 1-0.

"First Citizens is again proud to be collaborating with the TT Pro League. This 11- year partnership has promoted the development of raw talent and as the only true local bank, we are committed to enhancing our youth through their development in education and sport," Sookdhar said, while urging competitors to play fair but fierce.

"I share a quote from Vince Lombardi who said: "If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?"

Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene said: "What drives, inspires and motivates all of us who remain dedicated and committed to the Pro League?

I believe it is an inner knowledge that through football, each and everyone of us involved in this mission that is professional football in Trinidad and Tobago, has chosen to make a positive difference in the lives of the young men and women, and communities, and by extension Trinidad and Tobago."

Quarterfinals

Venue: Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo
North East Stars vs St Ann’s Rangers, 6 pm - (A)
T&TEC vs Caledonia AIA, 8pm - (B)
 
Venue: Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella
W Connection vs Police, 6 pm - (C)
Defence Force vs Central FC, 8 pm - (D)
 
September 28

Semifinals:
A vs D
B vs C
 
October 5
Final

Friendly banter excites First Citizens Cup
ttproleague.com


Caledonia AIA Coach Jamaal Shabazz and North East Stars Coach Angus Eve were key players in friendly banter during the launch of the 2012 First Citizens Cup on Wednesday afternoon.

The duo among other coaches, players and even W Connection Marketing Manager Renee John-Williams joined in to add some flare to this season’s competition well before the kickoff on Friday in the quarter-final round.

“It was a problem to get back the trophy from the supporters, and you know the people of Morvant/Laventille,” joked Shabazz, who guided Caledonia to the title last season defeating T&TEC FC 2-1 in the Final.

The always charismatic Caledonia coach joked further saying he even tried getting the assistance of the Minister of National Security and Port of Spain Mayor to retrieve the trophy from his supporters.

Finally he said, “I had to get two soldiers to go and get the trophy. So you see how tough it would be to part with the trophy. So we look forward to the semi-finals.”

Coincidently by a random draw on Wednesday at the First Citizens Corporate Box at the Queens Park Oval on Wednesday, T&TEC and Caledonia will face eachother in the quarter-final round at the Hasely Crawford Stadium from 8pm, with North East Stars against St. Ann’s Rangers in the earlier match from 6pm at the Port of Spain venue.

Other quarter-final round clashes include six-time winner W Connection against Police FC from 6pm at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, and from 8pm, Defence Force takes on debutant Central FC.

The semi-final round will follow on Friday 28 September and the Final on Friday 5 October. The winner of the tournament will lift the prestigious trophy and $80,000.00 while $20,000.00 goes to the runner-up.

Firing back at Shabazz’s confidence, T&TEC FC captain Keeron Benito said, “I’d just like to say first of all, [Mr. Shabazz] is a very entertaining kind of guy. But right now I want to say that our guys are really ready to play. I don’t think T&TEC is under any pressure. I believe Cale’ is under all the pressure right now so that’s a positive for us going into the game.”

Meantime Eve who guided North East Stars to a 3-1 Digicel Pro League win over Caledonia last weekend is also looking ahead to the semi-final round.

He told quarter-final round opponents Rangers, “All yuh gone already.”

However Eve was quick to add, “All competitions are tough. I think people don’t give the Pro League the respect it should get.”

Rangers’ defensive midfielder Mikhail Awai seemed down to business.

He said, “With all the talk I have a lot of respect for people like Jamaal Shabazz and Angus Eve, but honestly what they say doesn’t matter to me. We are coming here to play a football match, not talking in a conference.

While Police Head Coach Richard Hood, coming off a 2-1 win over T&TEC in the League, is hoping to capitalize on Connection’s 3-2 loss to Guatemalan club Xelaju on Tuesday night in the CONCACAF Champions’ League group stage.

He said, “It would be really good for us to make a positive statement by beating them on Friday. I looked at their game (against Xelaju) and saw some areas that I feel we can exploit and just the fact that they played (Tuesday) they may be a little on the tired side. Also the fact that they lost; there may be a dip in confidence.”

But John-Williams was quick to defend her club.

She warned, “W Connection is no stranger to the first Citizens Cup and we have won this trophy time and time again. And this year would be no different. We would be coming at Police to win. We’ve won the competition six times and been in the Final nine times and that alone speaks for itself. We are coming very motivated to regain the title. Try your best, but we don’t go down very easily.”

Defence Force also voiced confidence and seems ready to learn on the run against newcomers Central FC.

“Not knowing about your opponent is a difficult thing,” said the Soldiers assistant coach Marvin Gordon. “Central FC is a new team in the League and we don’t know much about them, so I think Ross (Russell) and I will have to learn on the run on Friday.

But in our camp we are confident and I think since we’ve put together the Defence Force team in previous seasons, I think this is the best we ever had. We are high in confidence and playing good football. So I have no doubt in my mind that on Friday we will have the right result.”

Gordon said he is anxious to meet the loud talking North East Stars in the semi-final round.

“You know the ‘mouthers’,” he said. “Those are the teams I want to play against.”