“They were in tears, because losing is a strange thing to the guys but champions don’t bow their heads and now we’re ready to defend the InterCol title.” Those were the sentiments of three-time consecutive North Zone and defending InterCol champion coach of St Anthony’s College, Nigel Grosvenor.
Grosvenor, who has helped develop one of the most followed and favoured colleges in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), says that he and his team of “Tigers” are ready to bounce back after what many described as a shocking loss to Carapichaima East Secondary, in the semifinal stage of the BGTT/First Citizens SSFL Big-Five competition at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, on Tuesday.
The Carapichaima players, to their credit, took the game to St Anthony’s, albeit in a scrappy affair. St Anthony’s was up against a team which won the Central Zone league title for nine consecutive seasons, an incredible feat in any league.
A Marvin Martin close-range effort just after the 70th minute of the match gave Caps the unforgiving victory a year after St Anthony’s took the Big-Five trophy with the same result against the same Central Zone opponent. The lone goal in Tuesday’s semifinal loss for St Anthony’s came as a result of an unfortunate gaffe from Jevon Sample after he dropped what should have been a conventional goalkeeper’s catch.
But, Grosvenor, in good sense of man management, was quick and eager to reassure the school’s demotivated number-one custodian, that he was well and truly one of the main factors in his team’s successes this year. And, according to Grosvenor, he was obliged to remind Sample of the highlight save he made from a penalty shot this season which helped prevent St Anthony’s from a loss against Malick in the North Zone league competition.
“The team was definitely demoralised, and they still think about the result, but after calling them out for a session in the pool this morning (yesterday) and having lunch, there was no argument. They did not and will not completely forget the result, but they know that they are champions.”
While Carapichaima missed several instrumental players, St Anthony’s has fielded a relatively young team this season with a number of students heading off to schools abroad with scholarships while two of its midfield standouts, Keane McIvor and Xavier Rajpaul, were committed to national under-20 duties. That is where Grosvenor felt the match was lost.
Looking ahead, St Anthony’s remains with the Coca-Cola National InterCol title to defend. On November 12, the Tigers faces the champion team of North Zone Senior Division, which is yes to be determined. Grosvenor, though striving for outright success, expects an even greater test in the upcoming knockout tournament.
“Everyone plays their best match against us. Everyone wants to beat the champions. So, naturally we’re targets,” he said. “It’s going to be even harder, especially with the loss. If you lose one, the next opponent will go into the match thinking they can do the same.” Commenting on the amount of work it took for the team to retain the North Zone title for the third straight year he bluntly exclaimed, “It easy to get to the top, but its much more difficult to stay there. The boys will be ready for it.”