Wed, May

Police FC’s Christian Thomas, right, collides with Cunupia FC’s Kadeem Graham as they chase the ball during this match in the Ascension Tournament at the Police Barracks, St James on Sunday, April 10th 2022. Police won 2-1. Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY

CUNUPIA FC director and coach Michael De Four said his players are ready for the fight as the unit gears up for the T&T Premier Football League (TTPFL) which kicks off on March 10 after three years of limited local club football.

Cunupia FC may be without some of their experienced players for the 2023 season including the Tobago pair of Keon Daniel and Kevon “Showtime” Woodley.

“Most of the core players…they are like 34, 35 so some of them have decided to stay in their job,” De Four said.

“We are rebuilding. We have maybe five or so of our players from seasons gone and the rest of the new players are coming along.”

De Four knows he does not have the most gifted team in the upcoming league, but said teams can expect a battle when they play Cunupia FC.

“We at Cunupia have never had a fully talented squad. We are relatively young…we are always very hard to beat. We play hard, we fight hard to win.”

The TTPFL, ending in May, has been 18 months in the making and will include 12 teams in the top division. The teams are La Horquetta Rangers, Club Sando, Police, W Connection Couva, Pt Fortin Civic FC, AC Port of Spain, Central FC, San Juan Jabloteh, Caledonia AIA, Prisons FC, Defence Force and Cunupia FC.

The league for tier-two teams will start at the end of April.

There will be no promotion and relegation in the first season as it will only be played over two months. In June, a knock-out competition will be held featuring teams in both tier one and tier two. The second season of the league will run from September/October 2023 to May 2024.

At the launch of the league two weeks ago, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe said the Government will commit $3 million per year for the first three years. The league is also getting support from FIFA and corporate T&T.

De Four said there have been challenges during the build-up. “Preparations are ongoing…you may be aware that there are not many football fields that have been reasonably maintained during the two, three years of the covid (pandemic), so it doesn’t have many places you get a fairly alright surface to train on.”

Cunupia FC are training at multiple venues, wherever is available and conducive including the Balmain Recreation Ground in Couva.

There is also competition for sporting facilities this year with a number of other sports being held as T&T starts to return to normalcy after the pandemic.

“We have to work with what we have…all the fields are terrible and in a mess right now.”

De Four said ideally he would like to train mostly in Central, so his players would not have to travel too far. “Right now we represent Central. We homegrown in Central. We came up in Central Zone, we played in the super league and we went up to the premier league as we calling it now.”

De Four said Central has a high crime rate and he wants to get as many young people involved as possible.

Cunupia FC are still without a major sponsor. “We will just be hopeful that somebody would come on board.”

Each team is expected to receive a subvention of $220,000 for the season.

The Cunupia FC coach said encouraging someone to leave their job to play football for a few months can prove difficult. “You have to offer them (at least) minimum wage (to play).”

Cunupia FC will open the league against Caledonia AIA on March 12 at the Arima Velodrome. Cunupia have won three of their last four matches against Caledonia.

SOURCE: T&T Newsday