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Fri, Nov

Representatives of the 12 T&T Pro League clubs are flanked by Senior Manager Communication and public relations First Citizens Dexter Charles, second from right, and CEO Julia Baptiste, right, put their hands on the champions trophy during the Media Launch of the First Citizens Cup at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex, Bagatelle, Diego Martin, yesterday. ...CA-images
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At long last, there will be pro­fes­sion­al foot­ball in T&T af­ter al­most a year of in­ac­tiv­i­ty. The T&T Pro League will kick off with the First Cit­i­zens Cup to­mor­row night at the Diego Mar­tin Sports Com­plex in Bagatelle.

Twelve teams, in­clud­ing new­com­ers 1976 To­ba­go Phoenix, which the league sought as a rep­re­sen­ta­tive team from the sis­ter-isle, as well as Cunu­pia FC, the T&T Su­per League cam­paign­ers, will bat­tle for a $75,000 cash prize, a tro­phy and brag­ging rights, which are cur­rent­ly be­ing held by 2018 win­ners Cen­tral FC.

At a launch on Wednes­day, Pro League Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer (CEO) Ju­lia Bap­tiste said the teams - W Con­nec­tion, North East Stars, De­fence Force, Mor­vant Cale­do­nia Unit­ed, Po­lice FC, Ter­minix La Hor­quet­ta Rangers, Tiger Tanks Club San­do, Point Fortin Civic, San Juan Jabloteh, Cunu­pia FC, 1976 Phoenix and Cen­tral FC, have been drawn in two groups - Im­mortelle and Aber­crom­bie - of six teams each and they will play in a round-robin for­mat, from which the top two teams will ad­vance to the semi­fi­nals.

Bap­tiste not­ed that the sev­en-week First Cit­i­zens tour­na­ment will see all the Fri­day night match­es be­ing played at the Com­plex. Oth­er match­es, how­ev­er, will be played at dif­fer­ent venues across T&T.

Ac­cord­ing to Bap­tiste, the de­ci­sion to take the Fri­day match­es to the Diego Mar­tin venue was to im­pact the many com­mu­ni­ties that ex­ist there.

"These com­mu­ni­ties were be­ing tar­get­ed for a while now, so we have de­cid­ed to use this op­por­tu­ni­ty. We are tak­ing top-flight foot­ball to the peo­ple who are in­ter­est­ed in sup­port­ing their play­ers and the sport," Bap­tiste ex­plained.

A clash be­tween Mor­vant Cale­do­nia and Cunu­pia FC will get the tour­na­ment un­der­way at 6 pm, fol­low­ing which the De­fence Force and de­fend­ing cham­pi­ons Cen­tral FC will meet at 8 pm.

The Cup tour­na­ment is sched­uled to fin­ish on De­cem­ber 7, af­ter which the start of the Pro League will take place six days lat­er (De­cem­ber 13). Bap­tiste said the restart of the Pro League has been a wel­come one for the many play­ers who are rar­ing and ready to go.

It will run for sev­en rounds, end­ing on May 31, 2020 and it is ex­pect­ed to fea­ture a high lev­el of com­pe­ti­tion. Bap­tiste yes­ter­day paid spe­cial trib­ute to First Cit­i­zens, not­ing they have been ex­treme­ly sup­port­ive to them amid the fi­nan­cial­ly dif­fi­cult times.

The Pro League boss told the au­di­ence it was a long hard ride for top-flight foot­ball in T&T but they are fi­nal­ly here to start back the league.

2019 T&T Pro League Teams

W Con­nec­tion, North East Stars, De­fence Force, Mor­vant Cale­do­nia Unit­ed, Po­lice FC, Ter­minix La Hor­quet­ta Rangers, Tiger Tanks Club San­do, Point Fortin Civic, San Juan Jabloteh, Cunu­pia FC, 1976 Phoenix and Cen­tral FC.