Thu, Feb

Presentation College captain (R) and Naparima College captain during the Media Launch of the Secondary School Football League at the Ato Boldon Stadium on September 7, 2022 in Couva. (Photo by Daniel Prentice)

South Zone duo and bitter long-time rivals, Presentation College of San Fernando and Naparima College will clash in the inaugural Tiger Tank Cup on Friday, September 9 at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva, from 4 pm to usher in the revamped 2022 season of the Tiger Tank Secondary Schools Football League.

Tiger Tanks will be the main sponsor of this year’s SSFL, taking over from Jamaican-based sports television network, Sportsmax.

Coincidentally, a five-year agreement between the SSFL, Digicel, and SportsMax was scheduled to conclude in 2020 before the intervention of the COVID-19 pandemic threw everything into a tailspin.

Under Tiger Tanks, the league is set to be well-served, inclusive of uniform provision and branding, prizes, and the broadcasting of matches for all the divisions, inclusive of the Premiership, Championship, and all the lower divisions.

Speaking at the launch of the new season at the T&T Football Association’s Technical Centre at the Ato Boldon Stadium yesterday, SSFL president Merere Gonzales, president of the SSFL said they were hoping to negotiate for matches in all divisions in the SSFL to be broadcasted either LIVE or shown delayed on television, which is an initiative that would allow all students to use the footage to receive scholarships or for their personal use.

Gonzales reflecting on the absence of SSFL action for the past two years as well as looking ahead to the new campaign said, “In an endemic stage like that of the covid-19 I’m very mindful of the situation, and I’m very heartened as the president for the much anticipated, long-awaited, highly competitive, very much entertaining and flamboyance of the football talent that will be displayed by all student-athlete of the respective schools in T&T.”

“As a responsible organisation in that of the SSFL, it is of paramount importance that we understand first and foremost that our main priority is to ensure the promotion, development, advancement, nurturing, support and guidance of our students.”

“And while they are engaged in a sporting disciplined and in this case football, we will also be responsible, and professional organisation and continue to create this platform for them to showcase their talent,” ended Gonzales.

Mulraine takes over at Naps

Naparima College won the last edition of the SSFL Premier Division crown in 2019, their fourth in six years under Angus Eve, the senior and under-20 national men’s coach, while the Shawn Cooper-coached Presentation College captured their first national Inter-Col crown in 44 years when they lifted the title in 2019 title beating San Juan North Secondary, 2-1 in the decider.

For Naparima, a lot has changed in the technical department with former national players Travis Mulraine (head coach) and Anthony Sherwood (assistant) now at the helm of the reigning SSFL Premier champions for the new campaign while Cooper, who was recently appointed national Under-17 men’s coach will be assisted, Dunstan Williams.

The new format of the 16-team Premier Division which gets going on Wednesday, September 14 will see the teams divided into two groups of eight teams for one round of round-robin competition, that’s is seven matches for each team, at the end of which the top two in each pool will advance to the crossover semifinals on Friday, October 21 ahead of the final four days later.

Both the semifinals and final are slated for either the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, or the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.

This year’s SSFL season will be the first to be held since 2019 after the 2020 and 2021 seasons were postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and will also

The 16-participating schools will see Group A comprise Naparima College, St Augustine Secondary, Carapichaima East Secondary, Speyside High School, St Benedict’s College, Fatima College, Pleasantville Secondary, and St Anthony’s College, while Group B will feature San Juan North Secondary, Queen’s Royal College, Chaguanas North Secondary, Malick Secondary, East Mucurapo Secondary, Moruga Secondary, Trinity College East, and Presentation College (San F’do) with the opening round of matches set for Wednesday, September 14 with kickoff at 4 pm.

According to Gonzales, the 2022 SSFL season will see competition in the boys’ and girls’ championship divisions as well while due to some immediate constraints, the premiership division girls’ will unfortunately not be able to materialise this year.

However, a new aspect of the SSFL league will see for a short period the organisation of a “pilot project” sponsored by FIFA to engage more girls to be involved in football, and therefore we will be in the embryonic stages looking toward having a very short version or at least providing another platform for the Girls 13 and Under Division with the expectation that for 2023 season it will be more established as an official division with the SSFL.

Minister Gadsby-Dolly invites parents to support the players

Gonzales also noted that for the 2022 season, Minister of Education, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly has been made patron of the SSFL.

With regards to the demotion of teams from the SSFL, the two bottom-placed teams will be automatically relegated and will be joined by the losers of the playoff between the two teams to finish second from bottom in their respective groups.

At the same time, the winners of the five Championship Boys Divisions which will comprise six teams team will then contest a “Big-Five” round-robin series at the end of which the top three finishers will gain promotion to the 2023 Premier Division.

Gadsby-Dolly in her address reflected on her days as a supporter of St Augustine Secondary “Green Machine” said she remembered the joy and passion and excitements of Inter-Col.

Admitting that her children were also anticipating the season and already had matches earmarked to watch Gadsby-Dolly added, “I know this season is going to be a bumper season and it’s very important that it is because we are recovering and rebounding from what was a forced curtailment of all our activities by covid-19 and the pandemic, and that experience did more than simply closed schools and stopped sporting activities.

“In many cases, it disrupted the spirit of the promise of our students and it is more than just a building closing because when a school closes it’s not juts a building but an area of release for some students, it is an area where some students are able to socialise with their friends and release the frustrations of home.

“It’s an area where they can look forward to their progress as student-athletes as persons in the cultural sector and as students who are aspiring to different careers, and it threw our young people into disarray almost because it was such a time of uncertainty.

“And I’m for one very excited about the fact that our students are back out to school firstly, challenges notwithstanding and I’m equally glad that we are able to come back to the days of Inter-Col and what that means to our students,” stated Gadsby-Dolly.

Among the other speakers at the launch were Keiron Edwards, Chief Executive Officer of the Ascension Group of Trinidad, Laurence Seepersad, SSFL Assistant Secretary of Operations, Anthony Lovelace, Senior Brand Specialist at Coca-Cola Caribbean Bottlers, and Denis Latiff, General Manager/Owner Tiger Tanks Trinidad Limited.

SOURCE: T&T Guardian