The Tobago boys' intercol semi-final match between Bishop's High School (Tobago) and reigning Tobago champions Signal Hill Secondary was marred by an ugly off-field incident at Plymouth recreation grounds on Tuesday, as spectators attacked Speyside Secondary player Japhire Edwards during the early stages of the abandoned match.
The match was called off after just 11 minutes because of poor lighting, team officials said. The attack on Edwards caused quite a stir. Edwards was an unused substitute in the first semi-final, when his Speyside school got a nervy 5-3 win on penalties over Mason Hall Secondary after a 2-2 draw in regular time.
Speyside technical director and Tobago zone chairman Kerry Lynch said an unsuspecting Edwards was changing his clothes in the pavilion when he was attacked.
"About ten boys jumped on him and attacked him," Lynch told Newsday. "They are from the Plymouth area. The irony in this is the boys who attacked Japhire are schoolboys from other schools."
Lynch said Edwards, who lives in Signal Hill, may have been subjected to an ongoing "community rivalry."
In a video which was shown live on social media, spectators were seen running towards the sidelines as the incident escalated, with the Bishop's and Signal Hill game still in progress. In the video, Lynch hurled himself to the ground to brace for cover in the melee.
"I was holding the boy who was being attacked. I saw this person charging with a bottle and I was doubting he would throw it," the Tobago zone chairman said. "I had to duck for cover to protect myself. A number of us were holding (Japhire), but the guys who attacked him were not letting up at all.
"There were no other people from the Signal Hill community there. Otherwise, this could have been a full-on brawl."
At the time of the incident, Lynch said, there was no police presence at the venue, although he had been assured of their attendance before the semi-finals. He said police did arrive once the fracas started, and a member of the Speyside technical staff eventually drove Edwards to safety. Lynch said Edwards was not hurt and was able to attend school on Wednesday.
"We have been able to identify a few of the schoolboys from the incident and we will be reaching out to their respective schools to take further action."
On the field of play, the match between Bishop's and Signal Hill was still in its embryonic stages before it was abandoned because of poor lighting – and not the off-field fight – according to Lynch.
"The fighting did not affect the game. The game was still playing during the fighting. The game continued for about five minutes after the fight before the match was called off."
The Tobago intercol finals are scheduled for November 22, but a date for the rescheduled second semi-final is still to be decided. Lynch says the Plymouth venue is now certainly out of the question.
"No further games will be played there this season. We are sure about that. We are not going back there."
The unsavoury incident in Plymouth is the second such occurrence in the 2023 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) season, as the premier-division match between St Mary's College and league winners Fatima College on the final day of the league campaign on November 3 was overshadowed by a post-game brawl involving spectators and schoolboys.
SSFL president Merere Gonzales opted not to comment on the incident in the second Tobago semi, as he said he had not seen the official match report.
He said the SSFL's general council will hold a meeting on Thursday, when it hopes to discuss and rule on both matters.
"Indiscipline and violent conduct of any kind from any school, spectator or stakeholder will not be tolerated or condoned by the SSFL," Gonzales said.
SOURCE: T&T Newsday