The Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division 2016 came to a striking finish last week, and after a season of passionate play, Shiva Boys’ Hindu College produced an amazing Cinderella run to win their maiden title.
Last year’s champs, Naparima College, were forced to settle for third place, and after a nail-biting, topsy-turvy conclusion on the final day of the season, former powerhouse St Benedict’s College managed to stave off relegation, while Fatima College, Pleasantville Secondary and Queen’s Royal College’s worst fears came to pass as they were not so lucky.
The competition was intense, with spectacular goals and breathless plays from every corner of the pitch by young sportsmen from every corner of the country. Hearts were broken, goalkeepers were moved to tears and the races at the top and bottom end of the table were better for it.
Of course, to win in football you have to score goals, and the top strikers of the season were some of the brightest stars on the pitch.
Shiva Boys were relentless in their pursuit of glory, notching a record 37 points in 14 games. This feat was in no small part down to an experienced and potent attacking force led by SSFL Premier Division 2016 Silver Boot winner, Junior Asson, a crafty, mobile forward who offered a clever touch and an appreciation for the space around him
His final-day hattrick versus Fatima offered a perfect peek into the tools in his locker—from pouncing on a loose back pass; to bamboozling defences with composure; to a 30-yard rocket into the top corner—Asson proved to be a title-worthy marksman.
Without a doubt, the most consistent goal scorer this season was Naparima ace Isaiah Lee.
Lee dominated the top of the scoring charts with 13 goals in 14 games in his first season with the southern football giants. Naps head coach, Angus Eve, likened him to Chelsea legend Didier Drogba in terms of his work rate and ability to hold up the ball; Lee himself, however, models his gameplay after Barcelona marksman Luis Suarez.
The 17-year-old worked tirelessly off the ball, chasing several “lost causes,” and managed to hold up the ball well—and judging by his scorecard this season, he knew where the goal was.
Lee’s heroics, however, didn’t help last year’s champs retain their crown. For the last two seasons, Naparima vastly outperformed a lacklustre Shiva Boys’ but there was no stopping the boys from Penal this year as they claimed a revenge of sorts over their southern rivals to raise their first-ever Premier Division trophy.
Naps had to settle for third.
Sandwiched between the former and new reigning champions, the Lions of San Fernando, Presentation College, completed the southern sweep of SSFL’s top ranks.
Presentation’s rise to second was down to the attacking team of James Alex Yee Law and Nion Lammy who hammered in nine and seven goals respectively. Their goals accounted for exactly half of Pres’ tally for the entire season.
Even more impressive, the lethal pair did their best work at the business end of the season, ensuring that the Pres Lions cemented their position in the top two in order to qualify for the Digicel Play Cup, which starts on 5 December.
A bit further down the table, St Augustine Secondary’s Rahim Gordon was chief destroyer for the “Green Machine” scoring eight goals. Under the guidance of new head coach Adrian Romain, the eastern giants started sluggishly but eventually made their way up the SSFL table through grit, determination and a few smash and grab results—with Gordon usually providing the smash.
St Anthony’s College adopted a different formula to get results. While most teams depended on a single hitman to notch goals, the “Westmoorings Tigers” shared the goal-scoring joy throughout their ranks and registered 38 goals—the most of any SSFL team this season.
Boasting T&T National Under-17 and Under-20 players and a collection of some of the most explosive attacking talent in the SSFL, the Tigers had no fewer than five players who scored at least four goals. Electric wingers Haile Beckles and Tyrese Bailey ravaged defences nationwide while bagging five and four goals each.
Bailey’s T&T Under-17 teammate Che Benny and T&T Under-20 forward Kathon St Hillaire spent considerable time away on national duty, but when they managed to don their St Anthony’s kit, they struck four goals apiece.
The man who probably benefitted the most from the creativity and trickery of his teammates though was left back Derron John.
Featuring as the only defender in the top 20 SSFL goal-scorers, John registered only one goal out of his five from open play. The rest were all hammered into generally the same bottom corner from 12 yards.
As the leading penalty taker in the SSFL based on success rate, his overall game play has been a major plus among the Tigers’ ranks whenever he barrels forward; he also boasts a powerful left foot that troubles any custodian between the sticks.
At the other end of the table, Fatima College’s giant Justin Araujo-Wilson was cast in the role of saviour but try as he might, he couldn’t help the Mucurapo Road team escape the dreaded drop to the Championship Division. Araujo-Wilson was the leading goal scorer out of the three relegated teams with six goals.
His imposing frame and ability to strike the ball crisply with both feet set him apart and as he displayed with his final round double versus Shiva Boys. Even in Fatima’s 4-2 defeat against the eventual overall champs, Araujo-Wilson was the man for the big moments, taking the game by the scruff, even giving Fatima the brief thrill of a 2-1 lead midway into the second half.
For all the goal scoring heroics in SSFL 2016 Premier Division, St Benedict’s College Detori Boucher was the man with the Midas touch. Benedict’s were as good as six feet under—dead last on the table as the final round of matches kicked off.
With just three rounds left and Benedict’s floundering on three points at the foot of the table, Boucher virtually single-handedly helped the southerners produce a Houdini-esque escape. Boucher only notched three goals all season, but they each came crucially in the final three matches, resulting in 1-0 victories.
Even more spectacularly, Boucher’s three goals were all free kicks, felling St Anthony’s, Signal Hill and Trinity College, Moka with his potency. Fortune though, favours the brave and it doesn’t get more courageous than stepping up and curling home three game winning free kicks for your classmates, teachers and alma mater.
Whether the ball trickles over the line or thunders into the top corner, a goal is a goal. Goals win games and the SSFL is no different. The 2016 season may have produced 22 percent fewer goals per game (23 goals) than the previous year but each one of them were just as important.
Let’s hope that the passion and thirst for goals continues as we roll into 2017.
SSFL 2016 Top 15 Goalscorers:
13—Isaiah Lee (Naparima College);
11—Junior Asson (Shiva Boys’ Hindu College);
9—James Alex Lee Yaw (Presentation College, San Fernando);
8—Rahim Gordon (St Augustine Secondary);
7—Nion Lammy (Presentation College, San Fernando);
6—Justin Araujo-Wilson (Fatima College), Alleric Williams (Fyzabad College), Renaldo Boyce (San Juan North), Quinn Rodney (Shiva Boys’ Hindu College), Haile Beckles (St Anthony’s College), Anthony Samuel (St Augustine Secondary);
5—Zion McLeod (East Mucurapo Secondary), Sharkeel Louison (Fyzabad Secondary), Renaldo McIntosh (Naparima College), Jerome Cyrus (San Juan North), Akil Frank (Signal Hill Secondary).