FATIMA COLLEGE, guided by coach Hutson "Baba" Charles, will look to secure the school's first Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) premier division title when they meet four-time premier division champions Naparima College, from 3.30 pm on Saturday, at Lewis Street in San Fernando.
Fatima (34 points) have a five-point lead ahead of both St Benedict's College and San Juan North Secondary on the 16-team table and will clinch the title with a victory. A draw would be enough if St Benedict's and San Juan also drop points.
The premier division format was introduced in the 2014 season, with the seven titles thus far going to South zone schools. Naparima are the winningest team with four trophies. Shiva Boys Hindu College (2016), Presentation College San Fernando (2017) and Benedict's (2022) have won the other titles in the premier division era which observed a two-year break due to covid19.
Fatima College beat Benedict's in the national intercol final last year, but they also lost to St Benedict's in last season's "Big 4" premier division final.
On enemy territory, Charles wants Fatima to end a national league trophy drought which goes back to 1978.
"I told the guys we're on the verge of winning but we haven't won anything yet. It's still in our hands to lose and we can't be complacent," Charles told Newsday. "We are just close, but we're looking to get a victory. We are looking to seal that championship win."
Fatima have been in exemplary form this season, dropping only five points through 13 league matches. They played to an intriguing goalless draw with defending champions Benedict's on September 27. Their only loss in the campaign came against Presentation on October 4.
Charles said: "They have gone beyond expectations and I'm proud of them so far for the (number) of games (we have won) and the position we're in right now."
Charles says his team isn't feeling pressured to get the win, but he is anticipating a difficult test from Naparima.
Fatima can expect no favours from coach Travis Mulraine and his fourth-placed Naparima (27 points).
"Our main focus isn't to stop Fatima from winning the league," Mulraine said. "We are trying to push as high up the table as we can, and we need the six points from the last two games to do that. Fatima happens to be one of the opponents we have to face so we're going out to win the game."
Mulraine says Naparima's own title hopes went down the drain after losses to Benedict's and Arima North Secondary. Naparima also had a stretch where they drew three consecutive matches from rounds ten to 12. Mulraine believes his team would still be in the title race if not for silly defensive mistakes.
With Fatima inching towards the title, Mulraine says Naparima will try and put on a show at Lewis Street.
"I don't think the players will need motivation. My problem is motivating them against the smaller teams – which is all about mentality. I think the guys will be up to the challenge. I look forward to having a real cracker of a game."
SOURCE: T&T Newsday