Wed, Aug


In recent years Naparima College and Carapichaima East Secondary have produced thrilling encounters and that trend should continue as the teams face off today in the Coca Cola National InterCol semi-finals from 4 p.m.

The match was shifted to the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva after Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Central Zone champions "Caps" expressed concerns about playing at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.

The last time the teams met in InterCol action in 2007, Carapichaima were broken-hearted as they lost 4-3 to "Naps" in a spot-kick shootout in their quarter-final.

Since then, Carapichaima have been there or thereabouts, but not quite good enough to earn their first national title.

Now, the stakes are even higher, with the winners' prize being a spot in next week's InterCol final.

The Central Zone kings are long over their 3-1 whipping at the hands of Signal Hill Secondary in the SSFL's "Big Five" quarter-final in Tobago, a match Carapichaima "should have won", says manager Steve Gopeesingh.

A number of Carapichaima players are also recovering from the flu virus, but after the change of venue calmed their worries of playing in the Southland, they are ready to face Naparima.

"Their confidence is up now. I think they're ready," Gopeesingh told the Express yesterday. "I think everybody (is) coming into (his) own and we're going in with confidence."

The only worry is replacing midfielder Kareem Ryce, who was shown a straight red card for a kick during their 8-0 demolition of Waterloo Secondary in the Central final last week.

But Gopeesingh is hoping for a surprise or two for Naparima come kickoff.

"We saw the (South Zone) final against Shiva. Naps are a running team, so the coaches will put plans to kind of contradict that… Right now I'm working on something but I will disclose to the team on Thursday (today). I have some work for them (to help with their mental game)."

Leonson Lewis of Trinidad and Tobago "Strike Squad" fame will be tested as a coach today and admitted he was a "bit worried" about how his team will face their latest challenge.

They are one match beyond their South Zone InterCol title and one away from the national final. His problem is getting his team in the right frame of mind to face Caps.

"Sometimes there is a problem to motivate them for the less difficult games in their minds," Lewis explained yesterday. "I think it's a hard job in terms of getting them motivated for that game."

Naps's strength is in their first XI but Lewis "believes in my players, probably more than they believe in themselves".

In the back of his mind is a record tenth national title, which would make Naparima the most successful schools football team if they win this year's InterCol crown.