Sun, Jun

Kelley Small was in winners’ row on the opening night of the T& Premier League on Friday, March 10th 2023 after winning one of two halftime challenges. Small took home a cash prize of $500 courtesy Ticket Box.

At long last, the highly anticipated TT Premier Football League (TTPFL) kicked off Friday at the Mahaica Sporting Complex in Point Fortin.

It took approximately 18 months to plan this league as they wanted to ensure everything was in place before opening the games to the public and the players. I disagreed with this idea as this league should have got going 12 months ago as our players have been sitting eagerly awaiting top-flight football.

Thankfully, the Ascension League led the way with a tournament last year and together with Tiger Tanks, who sponsored an Under-20 tournament, football was played at a competitive level. We also had the reintroduction of the Secondary Schools Football League, which had some excellent crowds for the league final and the various Intercol games in all the respective zones.

Perhaps most importantly, with competitive local football now up and running, T&T’s players will be able to showcase their talent and give coach Angus Eve a much larger local pool to select players from for the national team, especially with some key international games on the horizon.

I journeyed down to Point Fortin to do commentary as Sportsmax was covering the opening games. On behalf of the people of Point Fortin and the environs, I am pleading to the Minister of Works and Transport to fix the roads; they are deplorable. Don’t we have a pitch lake in La Brea? Indeed, something can improve the state of the roads, especially if clubs have to travel to Mahaica to play games against the home team - Point Fortin Civic.

The executive of the League tried their best to make the opening a gala one as expected. There was entertainment galore with Olatunji, Fonclaire Steel Orchestra, Siparia Rhythm Section and Malick Tassa Drummers. They were complemented by dancers as well as men and women in carnival costumes. It was indeed an excellent show to open the league.

Unfortunately for me, there was no opening ceremony with someone declaring the tournament open and maybe some pyrotechnics to add to the glitz and glamour of the entertainment provided. Having the Minister of Sport and Community Development meet the teams in the opening game would have also added to the importance of the occasion.

The absence of a big crowd for the opening could have been better. I presume that the timing was too early, at 5 pm on a Friday. In hindsight, a 6.30 pm start with just one game inclusive of the home team taking the field may have seen a bigger turnout of spectators. The Master of Ceremonies, Jason Williams, did his utmost to get those in attendance involved with some giveaways and other forms of entertainment. I hope the League will get some product sponsors on board to attract the crowds. Those sponsors can showcase their products during the halftime interval so that spectators can enjoy the football and walk away with something.

The league has to be properly marketed, as many football fans are frustrated with the performances of most of the national teams and with the standard of play from local club players. This league could be a catalyst for encouraging the fans back to football.

Unfortunately (I have to use that word again), we cannot leave the marketing to the clubs as I am uncertain and unaware of their ability to market themselves. The league must give information on the clubs, their history, their players, who can we look forward to seeing, what their chances are etc etc.

What about major sponsorship? With Sportsmax coverage of the games, surely it can be an easy sell to corporate T&T. I cannot remember seeing one billboard at the opening game, which was hugely disappointing.

In terms of the actual football, Matchday one has been completed, with only Police FC and La Horquetta Rangers FC (who is overseas on tour) having their game postponed. All the big guns are competing and, in what was termed a central derby in the opening game between W Connection and Central FC, the latter came out victorious. W Connection is not the force it once was. It appeared to have a young and inexperienced team, so it was no surprise that Central FC took control of the midfield with their experienced players and thoroughly deserved their 2-0 victory.

The second game of the doubleheader saw the home team Point Fortin Civic take on Club Sando. After taking the lead, Club Sando was held to a 1-1 draw by the home team in what was an evenly contested game. Admittedly, I thought the Point team would have won based on home advantage and the experience in their lineup, but Club Sando is a plucky outfit, and they fight for every ball.

The surprise to me thus far occurred on Saturday at the Larry Gomes Stadium (Arima), where AC Port of Spain handed Defence Force a 3-0 whipping. ‘Army’ had their chances to score but could not take them, however, a calm and collected AC POS outfit soaked up some early pressure, kept their shape and made their chances count. This is a good victory for them, and they are a dangerous team not to be taken lightly. No doubt, ‘Army’ will come back better prepared after this defeat; they had some stalwarts on the bench who I expect will be playing from the next game, and they will tweak their system and learn from the evident mistakes in their opening game.

The final two games on Sunday were played before a large and appreciative crowd which was good to see at the Arima Velodrome. Morvant Caledonia United scored two early first-half goals against a nervous Cunupia FC in the opener. From there, Caledonia just managed the game and was never tested by Cunupia. The final game between San Juan Jabloteh and newcomers Prisons Services saw a fast-paced game between two teams who could not be separated. Jabloteh also has a young team who will improve, while Prisons are in the right place in the league.

In closing, can those in authority do something about the condition of the grounds? They were terrible. If we want to see good football, the conditions underfoot must be good, or players will get injured. Good luck to all clubs!

SOURCE: T&T Guardian