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Photo: North All-Star winger Kishon Hackshaw (left) tussles with South All-Star left back Matthew Beal during the SSFL Field of Dreams All-Star contest at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 10 December 2017. (Courtesy Chevaughn Christopher/Wired868)

South All Stars prevailed 4-2 on penalties over their Northern counterparts in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) All Star match at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on Sunday, after the game finished 1-1 at the end of regulation time.

Before an appreciative crowd that included Minister of Sports Darryl Smith and a number of ex school and national stars such as Leroy De Leon, Everald ‘Gally’ Cummings, Steve David, Alvin Corneal, Alvin Henderson, Russell Latapy, Reynold Carrington and Anthony Sherwood, both teams produced an entertaining display, but in the end it was Denzil Smith, the Shiva Boys Hindu College goalkeeper whose acrobatics between the uprights in the shoot-out, saving Matthaeus Granger and Andrew Peter-Abraham assured his team the win.

North struck first through San Juan North Secondary’s Renaldo Boyce who was presented with the simple task of tapping in the 50th minute before substitute Quinn Rodney drew the South team level in the 85th minute.

US coach Zach Ganzberg, head of the Mount Vernon Nazarene University was on hand to witness the talent among the T&T schools and said afterwards he was pleased with what he saw.

Smith was later voted the game’s MVP. According to the US coach, “I thought the talent was a little bit better. Obviously, what you get in the American game is a little higher intensity and sheer athletes and size.

But what I’m looking for are creative players and that’s why I’m here in Trinidad. There’s a lot of that here so I was pleased.”

The game was intended to expose players to a wider audience and as such, a video of it will be placed on Youtube, Corneal and William Wallace, president of the SSFL said. They believe more coaches as Ganzberg will get the opportunity to see the players.

The game will be aired today on ACTN (Acts 25TV) from 9.30pm. South coach Shawn Cooper said his players’ involvement in Saturday’s Footy Fest tourney left them weary.


SSFL All-Stars stay away Saturday; ‘Sousou hands’ Smith saves South in Sunday showpiece.
By Roneil Walcott (Wired868).

He has, one of his fans has boasted, more hands than a sousou and Denzil “Peng” Smith showed how true that is yesterday. The Shiva Boys’ Hindu College goalkeeper saved two penalty kicks at last evening’s Field of Dreams/Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) All-Star game to earn the South team a 4-2 shootout win over their North counterparts.

Playing in the season-ending exhibition game before a crowd of just over 1,000 spectators at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella, Smith did what he does best, smothering penalties by North skipper Matthaeus Granger and Fatima College midfielder Andrew Peter-Abraham to earn the Southern All-Stars victory after an intriguing 1-1 regulation tie.

For those fortunate enough to have witnessed the Coca-Cola National Intercol semi-final between Shiva Boys and Carapichaima East Secondary, it was a familiar script.

In that 30 November semi, Carapichaima had scored first through attacker Elijah King before a late Junior Asson equaliser and three penalty saves by Smith saw Shiva Boys into the National Intercol final. Yesterday, the North team struck first through San Juan North Secondary’s bulldozing forward Renaldo Boyce before substitute Quinn Rodney drew the South team level in the 85th minute.

That was when Smith got into the act.

“Aye, Trevor, yuh see keeper?” one vociferous South supporter asked loudly, addressing himself to North’s goalkeeping coach Trevor Nottingham after “Peng” had dived to his left to stop Granger’s penalty, his team’s second in the shootout. “Now that is keeper! Let’s see yours save one now.”

North custodian Jacques Poon-Lewis had been lively and sharp on his feet all game long but his attempts to give Nottingham the upper hand in the argument came up short.

Smith, meanwhile, was winning new fans, including US- based coach Zach Ganzberg. The Mount Vernon Nazarene University head coach was the lone foreign coach among SSFL’s list of invitees but he was quite pleased, impressed even with what he saw on display, particularly from the agile “Peng.”

“I liked the goalkeeper. That’s a position of need for us [at Mount Vernon] so that’s kinda part of it too,” Ganzberg told Wired868. “The goalkeeper Denzil [Smith] was good as far as I saw.”

“I told [Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) Technical Director] Anton [Corneal] that this would compare favourably to what I would call a showpiece game in the US,” revealed Ganzberg, who recently completed his first season as the Mount Nazarene coach. “I thought the talent was a little bit better. Obviously, what you get in the American game is a little higher [intensity] and sheer athletes and size. But what I’m looking for are creative players and that’s why I’m here in Trinidad. There’s a lot of that here so I was pleased.”

Both Corneal and SSFL President William Wallace stated that the main aim of yesterday’s exhibition game was to try and market the players to a wider audience. Video footage from the All-Star clash, they said, will be shared on YouTube so many other coaches like Ganzberg could get a good look at the players. Additionally, ACTN (Acts 25 TV) will air a full replay of the match on Tuesday 12 December from 9.30pm.

What is not likely to be discussed on Field of Dreams is the event’s clash with Unveil Magazine’s “Footy Fest” at Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya. Nor is the programme likely to mention the cancellation of the skills competition. It had been planned for Saturday but never came off owing to the underwhelming response from would-be participants.

Scheduled to include a 60-metre dash and one-on-one sequences with goalkeepers, it would, Wallace conceded, have been better conceived as a same-day twin of the All-Star game.

“We were supposed to have an activity on Saturday but that didn’t come off,” Wallace told Wired868. “But I was certain that today’s activity would have and I was very pleased with what happened today.”

“Actually, I think it (the Saturday event) wasn’t marketed properly,” Wallace continued, “and I had suggested before yesterday, based on the feedback we were getting from schools, that we should have one day [of events] and have the [skill] activities before the All-Star game. Going forward, that is definitely something we have to look at because asking persons to come out for the two days was a bit problematic.”

Field of Dreams producer George Mathison shared Wallace’s sentiments, suggesting that in the future the skills competition of the All-Star weekend should be open exclusively to Championship Division schools.

Another area needing attention from the SFL organisers is Tobago. Proper arrangements were not made by Field of Dreams/SSFL for Signal Hill’s Akil Frank and Speyside High School’s Kerri McDonald to be a part of the weekend. Frank told Wired868 that Unveil had booked his plane tickets and he featured at Unveil Magazine’s Footy Fest yesterday, where he rubbed shoulders with SSFL standouts such as Che Benny, John-Paul Rochford, Brandon Semper and Judah St Louis.

“We apologise to everyone in Tobago for the mishap but certain things slipped through the cracks,” said Mathison. “It was never our intention to leave the Tobago players out and we take full responsibility for what happened there.”

And the 30-minute delay in the start of proceedings was the result of yet another aspect of the All-Star weekend event that did not go to plan, the bus originally scheduled to bring the North team to Marabella never arriving so that alternative transport arrangements had to be hurriedly made.

Had Boyce participated in the SSFL’s one-on-one challenge, he would have been a shoo-in to walk away with the prize as he showed a dead eye in front of goal in Unveil’s Footy Fest on Saturday. In the seven-a-side final against Shiva Boys, the San Juan captain sent three clinical finishes past “Peng” as the teams played to a 3-3 draw in some 40 minutes of pulsating football.

However, Shiva Boys had the last laugh, edging past San Juan in the penalty shootout to walk away with the title in the 14-team tournament.

Yesterday once more, Boyce found himself up against Smith and, despite missing a sitter in the 21st minute, the striker won round one, tapping in from close range in the 50th minute after teammate Kishon Hackshaw had blown past defender Shirwin Noel down the right flank.

Smith eventually grabbed the headlines with his late heroics but Hackshaw dazzled on the day, his blistering acceleration and neat footwork repeatedly leaving South left-back Matthew Beal in a tangle.

North’s Gabriel Nanton, Jaydon Prowell and Anthony Samuel simply couldn’t match the flash of Hackshaw or that of their counterparts in Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel, Judah Garcia or Jordan Riley although the Ronald Daniel-coached northerners looked the more cohesive unit at times. South coach Shawn Cooper stated that some of his players’ involvement in Saturday’s Footy Fest tourney had left them weary.

“Some of them would have conserved some energy by not going and play in the seven-a-side Footy Fest yesterday,” Cooper said. “But a number of players from the South team did participate in Footy Fest yesterday and their legs went at certain parts of the game. But all in all, they stuck it out and got the victory.”

Daniel, who coaches St Anthony’s in the SSFL, was without his own “Tigers” quartet of Haile Beckles, Derron John, Jesse Williams and Benny, all of whom opted to participate in Footy Fest on both days.

Even without the feisty Tigers at his disposal, Daniel almost had the Field of Dreams challenge trophy within his reach, thanks to some wasteful finishing from the South team. However, South substitutes Tyrell “Sexyman” Baptiste and Rodney combined to get the 85th minute equaliser and take the game down to the lottery that is the penalty shootout.

Junior Asson, Kierron Mason, Yohannes Richardson and Noel all scored confidently for South, while Smith’s “sousou hands” earned him the MVP award.

And bigger things may be on the cards for him.

“We had at least one foreign coach in today and he has earmarked one player he’d like to take out of Trinidad and Tobago very soon,” Wallace stated. “This is a good start for us, and when you put the game up, it gives other persons the opportunity to be looked at. And leaving Trinidad and Tobago on scholarships is a definite opportunity”

Cooper too focused on the benefits of the day’s activities.

“I think they did a fantastic job in getting the folks and the spectators to see the kinda talent our youngsters really have in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said. “I’m very thankful for the event that they put on for the boys. […] The players relished it. I think now that the event has ended, they could see the importance of it.”

Next year, Field of Dreams and SSFL are promising a bigger and better event. And they have indicated their plans to pencil in the date of their All-Star weekend at the start of next season.

“We had quality football on the field of play and we had a crowd here which was beyond our expectations,” Wallace stated. “It was littered with legends and this really augurs well for this aspect of the SSFL, in collaboration with Field of Dreams, of course…”

“Going forward, we will definitely do an evaluation of this year’s activity,” the SSFL President ended. “And I’m certain it will be better and, in years to come, it will be a massive thing.”


South All-Stars (4-2-3-1): 1.Denzil Smith (GK); 2.Mylz Barrington, 5.Yohannes Richardson, 4.Shirwin Noel, 3.Matthew Beal; 8.Kierron Mason, 6.Judah Garcia (captain); 7.Jordan Riley (16.Quinn Riley 52), 10.Tyrel Emmanuel (15.Tyrell Baptiste 55), 11.Darnell Hospedales (14.Joshua King 55 [13.Jabari Graham 76]); 9.Keon Boney (17.Junior Asson 40).

Coach: Shawn Cooper

North All-Stars (4-2-3-1): 1.Jacque Poon-Lewis (GK); 15.Lukeman Brooks (12.Stephon Marcano 36), 3.Nkosi Salandy, 8.Matthaeus Granger (captain), 4.Joshua Araujo-Wilson; 11.Anthony Samuel, 10.Gabriel Nanton (5.Andrew Peter-Abraham 69); 13.Kishon Hackshaw, 14.Jaydon Prowell (7.Justin Araujo-Wilson 72), 11.Nickel Orr (16.Tyrese Spicer 60); 9.Renaldo Boyce (6.Nathaniel Perouse 81).

Coach: Ronald Daniel

Referee: Kevin Smart

All-Star MVP: Denzil Smith (South All-Stars)

South All-Stars 1 (Quinn Rodney 85) v North All Stars 1 (Renaldo Boyce 50) at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;
(South All-Stars won 4-2 on penalty kicks)

South beat North in SSFL All-Star game.
By Nickolai Madray (Newsday).

South completed a clean sweep of titles on Sunday, winning the inaugural Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) All-Star Game versus a North XI at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella. The South XI, captained by Shiva Boys’ Judah Garcia, prevailed 4-2 on penalties after the game had ended 1-1 in regulation time.

Shiva Boys goalkeeper, Denzil Smith, made two crucial saves in the shootout to win the All-Star MVP and ensure the trophy stayed in the south region. It was the third schools football title won by a south team this season, following Presentation College San Fernando’s victory in the SSFL Premier Division and Shiva Boys’ Intercol crown. The match was organised by former national player and ‘Field of Dreams’ television programme host, Steve David, along with ACTN ‘The Voice’.

South dominated possession from the opening whistle and Sherwin Noel sent an early warning shot just wide of the North XI post in the 5th minute. On the opposite end of the field, Renaldo Boyce of San Juan North, threw away a golden opportunity for North as he scuffed his shot wide after wonderful build-up play down the right flank.

South XI midfielder, Kierron Mason, then hit the post minutes later, from a shot at the edge of the area, as the score remained goalless after the half.

Boyce atoned for his earlier miss upon the resumption, drilling a low shot from inside the penalty area into the back of the net in the 50th minute. South coach Shawn Cooper, looking to erase the deficit, called Shiva Boys’ Quinn Rodney off the bench and the tricky winger immediately made an impact. Rodney, on a surging run inside the box in the 72nd, fed the ball to forward Junior Asson who skied his shot overbar. Rodney almost levelled the score soon after, firing into the side-netting after he was picked out on a diagonal cross from Josiah King.

Rodney and his Shiva Boys captain Garcia almost combined for a goal but again they failed to hit the target with Garcia this time the culprit. Rodney finally got the equaliser in the 85th minute as he found himself on the end of a ball played across the face of the goal and made no mistake with a clinical finish. With no extra time and penalties needed to decide the champion, Smith emerged the hero with two excellent stops.

Speaking to Newsday after the event, MVP Smith said, “The atmosphere here today was great as the opportunity to get called up to the All-Star team was very special. I would like to thank the team for never giving up and I am happy to win the Man-of-the-Match award...Sometimes it is hard knowing you’re the goalkeeper and the last line of defence, but at the same time, that is my job and I am thankful I executed my saves throughout the game and especially in the shootout.”