Secondary Schools Football League

It will be football in January, February, or possibly March of 2022 for student-athletes of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) wishing to play in the 2021 season.

President of the SSFL Merere Gonzales told Guardian Media Sports on Tuesday that the league has been toying with several options to have action this year, and one is to begin late in November which would mean that it will run into January or February 2022 if it is to be completed, inclusive of having both League and InterCol tournaments.

Like most other sports in T&T, the COVID-19 pandemic has dished out a red card for the SSFL and has severely affected many students last year, in their final year at schools pursuing athletic scholarships.

"We were of the firm belief earlier in the year, that we were looking at the feasibility and possibility of starting something workable in September, however, the reality is that it is not the case.

"The second plan was to have a truncated season to start in the second or third week in October, and that would have been based on the recent statements made by the Minister of Education, re - the vaccination of students and the passion reopening of school face-to-face.

"That in itself was affected by the situation presently, so we're still looking forward to the possibility to start something workable and feasible and operational in late October or the possibility of November. But we would give ourselves between now and possibly the middle of October to make a declaration to indicate whether or not, we can have a season for 2021 or not."

He noted also: "There is also another possibility that if we were to maybe start late in November in order to complete the League which will now divide itself into two groups of eight teams, seeing that there are 16 teams involved, and also more importantly, that the schools through the principals will be still interested in participating, then we can see ourselves if we start late in November, then it can very well move into 2022 in January, February at which we will have the League and the Intercol.

"So we're having these options available but it is now based on the sanctioning, the permission and the directive to be given by the relevant authorities and in this case the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Ministry of Education," Gonzales explained.

Another option Gonzales, a former teacher and FIFA World Cup referee said was to have an online skills challenge, which would not cater for all the student-athletes.

Discussions for this challenge have been ongoing as well as a futsal competition for all divisions, the SSFL boss explained: "In spite of that, we are having, at this present moment, planning for the online skills competition or showdown, which will cater for the divisions of the lower levels in the SSFL, which means it will be for the Forms One, Under-13s to the Senior Division, exclusive of the Championship and the Premier Divisions, which we would prefer to have physically and on the field, primarily because we feel that providing a platform for the elder ones, forms five and six, are the ones who are in the present position to pursue, if they so desire, scholarships either local at UTT or regional and or international Colleges and universities abroad."

"If we are unable to have any season whatsoever, we will definitely have the online skills competition for all the divisions, inclusive of the championship and the premiership divisions.

"What we understand is that it is better to have something tangible, concrete or evidenced of being involved in something pertaining to the particular discipline and in this case football, rather than have nothing.

"For instance, last year 2020 would have been the last season for some of the other student-athletes who, for no fault of theirs, we unable to have a season so what we had to do in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, was to have letters prepared for these respective students to support their case for those who wished at that point in time, to pursue scholarships, and that was done and several of them had been successful." 

SOURCE: T&T Guardian