Sat, Jul

Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) interim president Phillip Fraser

It's a three-man race for the presidency of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), as incumbent Phillip Fraser is set to be challenged by East Zone chairman Merere Gonzales and Derek West, a retired Trinity College East principal.

Nominations took place on Wednesday, and with all three candidates coming through the ranks of the SSFL, it makes for a close race when the elections are held on April 15 at 3.30 pm. The executive of the SSFL is set to decide soon whether to have the elections, virtually or face-to-face.

Gonzales, a FIFA referee at the 1998 World Cup in France comes highly qualified in his 30-plus years in the school system, telling Guardian Media Sports he is the best man to lead the organisation at this point in time.

In 2010, he defeated Fraser for the position of chairman of the East Zone but he then lost out to West in a tangle for the East Zone vice president's spot. He has not only served in the referees' department in T&T but was also assistant secretary and secretary of the East Zone, vice president of the zone to his current position of chairman of the zone.

He served as a Physical Education teacher at Mt Hope Secondary and was a member of the Disciplinary Committee for both the East Zone and at the SSFL level.

Gonzales has also played a key role as a member of the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) and has been involved in many other sporting disciplines as a helper, such as tennis, basketball, badminton, track and field and football, among many others.

Only recently Gonzales proposed a skill-display initiative among the young student/athletes if the COVID-19 pandemic persists, however, he believes more can be done for them if the pandemic subsides.

He said he believes the student/athlete is the most important stakeholder in the SSFL and all programmes or initiative should lead to their benefit by whoever gets the opportunity to lead the organisation.

Meanwhile, incumbent Fraser, a former principal at San Juan North Secondary, said with the experience he has garnered over the years, he is best positioned to steer the organisation forward.

Like, the other two candidates Fraser has come through the ranks, serving on the disciplinary and appeals committees. He believes his vision to "focus on the student/athlete by encouraging continued relevance for sports via sponsorship, training and constitutional reform" encompasses all he intends to achieve if he is given the chance to continue his leadership.

Fraser was chairman of the East Zone before being elevated to vice president to William Wallace, the then SSFL president who resigned from his position because of his new position of leadership of the T&T Football Association (TTFA), which is the parent body for all football in T&T.

Fraser was then appointed interim president when Wallace resigned until the elections are held.

Meanwhile, West, described as the silent jewel in the SSFL, told Guardian Media that he has the credentials to best lead the organisation, having been involved in the SSFL since 1983. He served as South Zone secretary and assistant secretary, and at the executive level as second vice president.

His crowning jewels to date have come both on the field of play and in the classrooms. As principal of Trinity College East, West took his teams to many division and zonal titles from inception. And in the classrooms, he took the school from an 11 per cent pass rate to a 94 per cent pass rate.

West said he has also made significant contributions in treating with constitutional issues. He added that though the race looks like a close one, he is the best man for the job.