Friday night’s celebration of the 2011 First Citizens Cup meant a great deal for Caledonia AIA of Morvant/Laventille according to longstanding Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz following his team’s 2-1 victory over T&TEC FC at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Morvant/Laventille, deemed one of the largest crime ridden areas of Trinidad and listed as one of the crime “hot spots” currently under curfew during the hours of 11pm – 4am following a State of Emergency implemented by the T&T Government, isn’t all negative.
It was from these communities that world renowned footballer Russell Latapy and other top players Dennis Lawrence, Aurtis Whitley, Devorn Jorsling, Reynold George, Selris Figaro, Nevick Deenoon, Sammy Lleweyn, Anthony Streete and Travis Mulraine were produced.
Now football club Caledonia AIA, winner of the 2008 FA Trophy and Pro Bowl and last season’s Digicel Pro League Championship runner-up continues to represent the stigmatized communities proudly by lifting the First Citizens Cup.
“I think it’s a very good feeling (to win the First Citizens Cup) under the circumstances of what’s happening in the country for the communities of Morvant/Laventille and east Port of Spain,” said Shabazz in his post match interview.
“I think it’s really one for the supporters. They didn’t come out in their numbers but all in all it was a great feeling not just for us as a team or how hard the players and the staff worked, but for the communities that we are from as well.”
Morvant resident Kareem ‘Tiny’ Joseph netted a brilliant first half strike to level the scores 1-1 after T&TEC held and early advantage through Sylvester Teesdale. Joseph then gave Caledonia the winner in the second period when he converted from the penalty spot against goalkeeper Akini Adams after Micah Lewis was fouled inside the area by Andrei Pacheco.
Shabazz said, “(Assistant) Coach Jerry Moe was talking to the players about belief before the match and I thought we showed tremendous belief coming from a goal down we played with that desire and that made the difference for us (against T&TEC).”
Shabazz who was also at the helm of things when his side was defeated in the 2001 and 2007 First Citizens Cup Finals against W Connection on both occasions felt disappointed that Caledonia wasn’t fully supported by the communities of Morvant/Laventille on Friday night but hopes that the 2011 title would help reunite the communities separated by gang warfare.
“I’m a little bit disappointed in the people of Morvant/Laventille,” he said. “I’m not sure if they are still afraid of the curfew but I think we’ve got to do some work now to regroup the communities.
We’ve been divided with all these border line nonsense and gang warfare. Now we hope that with the First Citizens Cup we’ve got to do some work in bringing the communities back together so when we reach in a Final like this again we can have a better showing from the Morvant/Laventille and East Port of Spain environs.”
“We can’t predict the future but (winning the First Citizens Cup) is a stepping stone for what we want to achieve this season, which is to win the League and the Cup competition that comes along,” said Caledonia AIA captain Stephan David following Friday’s 2-1 win over T&TEC FC in the Final of the 2011 First Citizens Cup at the Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Caledonia, last season’s Digicel Pro League runner-up behind Defence Force, had to come from behind following an early strike in the 15th minute by T&TEC’s Sylvester Teesdale and did so with a pair of goals by wingback Kareem Joseph netting in the 26th and 65th minutes, the later from the penalty spot after Micah Lewis was fouled inside the area by Andrei Pacheco.
“This is one of Kareem’s best performances,” said assistant coach Jerry Moe following the match.
“Confidence will come from this and he will do better in the future. He was a player always capable of scoring goals because he used to play in midfield before we transformed him into a wingback. So going forward was never a problem for him.”
Moe was in charge of the team for more than a week prior to the Final, but explained that it wasn’t a one man show, despite head coach Jamaal Shabazz’s international commitments with Guyana’s Senior Team for World Cup qualifiers.
He explained, “Even though Jamaal wasn’t here we still had emails and so on. You know with the electronic media you’re not too far away.
So in terms of that we were always working collectively. So everyone worked hard, the players the coaching staff and even Travis Mulraine who is on vacation because he was communicating with us on a daily basis.”
Moe justified the selection of T&T U-23 goalkeeper Zane Coker, who had a couple nervous moments in the opening stage, for the Final while regular goalie Jamaican Kevin Graham was an unused substitute.
Moe said, “We were just going on form and he had the better form in the last ten days leading up to the Final. He also just got selected to the National U-23 team and we saw it as an extra motivation for him to play.
It wasn’t just Coker, I thought the entire team took long to settle down. And we saw some of the decisions made by the players could have cost us.
But we stuck it out and sometimes when you’re not playing well, you just have to play with heart and we did that. The performance was basically what we wanted.”
The victory avoided a Caledonia three-peat, having lost the 2001 and 2007 Finals of the First Citizens Cup against W Connection on both occasions.
“It’s been a while reaching there and not finishing but (tonight) we dug deep and came out with the victory,” said David.
“It was a very good contest. T&TEC gave us a good fight down to the wire and I must credit them for coming out and playing a good game.
I just kept telling the guys we must continue playing our style of game and the goals would come if we keep working hard (after going under early in the game). I just kept urging the guys to put their best foot forward.
We are going to enjoy this victory before head back to the training pitch because there is the League still play for and other Cup competitions,” he ended.
Meantime Head Coach Shabaaz applauded the effort by T&TEC saying, “T&TEC joins the ranks of Caledonia and W Connection as teams that try to play football with good buildup and clever play.
I’m very impressed with them and congratulations to the work put in by Dexter Cyrus and his technical staff and their entry into the League has certainly brought some finesse to it.”