Football fans in South Trinidad are smiling once again with the recent return of United Petrotrin to the top echelon of Trinidad and Tobago football for the 2005 T&T Pro League season.
Following the downward slide of southern football in recent years and the exit of Starworld Strikers from the ProLeague, there was a widespread belief that football in South was finally dead and buried.
With Strikers closing their doors, it meant for the first time in decades that no team from South Trinidad would have been playing at the highest level.
Many football fans saw that as a tragedy and a tremendous setback for a region that was once the heart of football in the Caribbean.
United Petrotrin established themselves as one of the top local teams in the 1990s when national oil companies Trintoc and Trintopec merged their operations into a single enterprise.
Before that, Trintoc ruled the roost in local football, capturing all the major titles on more than one ocassion. Founder and long-serving manager of the Trintoc team during that period was Richard Brathwaite, who currently works for CONCACAF and is the former T&T national team manager.
Brathwaite said Petrotrin deserves the highest praise for this initiative.
South Trinidad has a rich tradition in sport, especially in football and this should be used to alleviate some of the serious social problems affecting the region, particularly among the youths, said Brathwaite. "It is good to see Petrotrin keeping the legacy alive," stated Brathwaite.
Several former national players are also involved with the United Petrotrin team, including Brian Williams, Clayton Morris, Philbert Jones, Dexter Francis and Larry Joseph.
The "Oil Squad" are sheduled to play their first game in the 2005 Pro League today against Tobago United at the Hasley Crawford Stadium. Petrotrin's first scheduled game against Defence Force last Staurday was postponed after the new team's transport broke down.
Head coach Brian Williams said he expected his young squad to give a good account of themsleves.
"We are focused on the future and we have several Under-20 players in the squad. We started preparations a bit late and the team is not as prepared as we would like to be, so we will approach the game with caution. But the players are keen to do well and they have been working hard in training,"Williams told the Express.