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SSFL president Merere Gonzales, centre, with the “Players of the Year” for SSFL 2023, with their trophies, Michael Chaves of Fatima College, left, and J’Eleisha Alexander of Scarborough Secondary at the awards and prize giving distribution held at the Chamber of Commerce Building, Couva on Thursday, April 18th 2024. PHOTO BY: Vashti Singh
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Fatima College standout Michael Chaves and J’Eleisha Alexander of Scarborough Secondary were named as the 2023 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Boys’ and Girls’ “Players of the Year” (POTY), respectively, when the annual end-of-season awards was held at the Couva Point Lisas Chamber of Commerce, Camden Road, Couva, Thursday.

Chaves along with fellow ‘Top Five Player of the Year’ award recipient Christian Bailey and goalkeeper Tristan Edwards, all members of the Boys All Star team were instrumental in Fatima College capturing their first national league title in 45 years and their third national league crown after lifting their first title in 1973.

A member of the national Under-20 team at the CONCACAF U-20 Championship held in T&T and senior team debutant against Jamaica as well, Chaves scored 13 goals and added ten assists as Fatima College topped the 16-team Premier Division standings with 40 points, five more than dethroned winners St Benedict’s College.

In addition to Fatima duo Chaves and Bailey, national U-20 captain and midfielder Lindell Sween (San Juan North Secondary), goalkeeper Kanye Lazarus (Presentation College (San Fernando) and striker Oba Samuel (Malick Secondary) were selected as the SSFL Premier Division Boys’ “Top Five Players of the Year”.

Commenting on his award, Chaves who suffered a broken leg in a T&T Premier Football League match for Queen’s Park Cricket Club against MIC Matura ReUnited early last month said, “I believe it was a successful season for me and the school.”

He added, “I got 13 goals and ten assists and I’m just grateful and would like to thank all my coaches, family, friends and my teammates for the support because without them it wouldn’t really have been possible.”

Reflecting on his senior national team appearance after being called by coach Angus Eve for the friendly series against Jamaica, Chaves said, “It was just a great experience, and a great learning experience and I think that it motivated me more than ever to really just keep going and achieve greater things, and I know that I will be back better than before.”

Concerning his recovery from the broken limb, Chaves said he would have surgery in two weeks to get himself back to walking again.

“From there, it’ll just be about recovery and how soon I can get back on the field, but at the same time, I would say that the support I have gotten during this time has been amazing and a lot of love and overall it’s been great. So many people have reached out to me and I’m just grateful for the support,” said Chaves.

Alexander, who led Scarborough Secondary to the SSFL Girls Championship Division National “Big-Five” crown, had a much tougher fight on her hands in lifting the girls’ top individual accolade as she managed to get the nod ahead of record-goal scorer Nikita Gosine of Pleasantville Secondary who netted 57 goals on the season in helping her team to the Coca-Cola National Girls Inter-Col crown after sweeping the South Zone titles.

An elated Alexander, who also won the top award in 2022, on collecting her award said, “I feel very happy to be winning this award two times in a row.

“I will like to thank my parents and teammates and my coaches as well as the season was a good one and it was really nice for us to come out on top again in the SSFL ‘Big-Five’ competition and we will be back next year to try and win a third straight title.

She added, “Personally, I represented all the national teams possible during the season as well and I will like to continue on that same path in having success both at the SSFL level, and national teams.”

The other “Top Five Players of the Year” among the girls were Luann Craig (Five Rivers Secondary), Talia Martin (Scarborough Secondary) and Dextra Harris also of Scarborough Secondary.

Looking ahead to the 2024 season, SSFL president Merere Gonzales said plans were afoot for the commencing of the Girls Premier Division, putting machinery in place to assist with the registration process of teams, having a fully operational website of the league, the continued discussion with regards to the start of futsal, beach soccer and E-sports competitions among schools as well as revamping the SSFL All Stars game and establishing an SSFL theme song.

With regards to the Form One League, Gonzales said efforts were being made to have a Girls U-13 League in which any player under the age of 13, no matter what form they are in will be allowed to play as compared to the U-13 Boys’ competition which is geared towards Form One students.

Not to be left out, the SSFL boss noted that efforts are being made to have courses whereby some of the student athletes can become referees while also increasing the number of educational courses for coaches in the SSFL with the help of the T&T Football Association.

SOURCE: T&T Guardian

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