Oh, how quickly things can change. Less than a fortnight ago, East Mucurapo Secondary were one of three schools to escape relegation from the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division on the final day of the season.
Trinidad and Tobago National Under-17 player, Jesse Williams, scored twice in a 2-1 win over Fyzabad Secondary on 26 October 2016, which should have secured Mucurapo’s place in the top flight of the 2017 competition.
However, a successful protest by St Benedict’s College over Mucurapo’s use of defender Abdus Ramcharan might undo the latter school’s good work on the field and could have far reaching implications on the league standings and the identities of the bottom three.
SSFL assistant secretary Gerald Elliot Elliot explained the matter.
“[Mucurapo] were brought before the disciplinary committee for having used a player, who at the point in time was thought to be a repeater,” Elliot told Wired868. “But then it was discovered that the boy is in Form 6. However, contrary to our Rules and Regulations, based on the overtures of the principal, the Ministry [of Education] allowed the boy to go into Form 6 with only three subjects, where he now has to focus on writing the other two subjects probably in January.
“Our rules clearly state that for you to play the football and entering Form 6, you must have a minimum of four subjects. So it is on that basis the committee ruled the player was ineligible to participate as a player in the league.”
St Benedict’s were the immediate beneficiaries.
“The team which brought forward the protest, which was St Benedict’s College, were awarded the game,” said Elliot. “Mucurapo had won 2-1. So now St Benedict’s will benefit with three points and three goals.”
As it turned out, Benedict’s beat the drop on the final day of the season. The awarded points means that the southern outfit will swap places with the Mucurapo Road school with St Benedict’s and Mucurapo now finishing in 10th and 11th place respectively in the 15-team table.
However, it gets messier since Ramcharan featured in more than one game for Mucurapo this season.
“[The SSFL] is now in the process of checking the referees’ reports to see if there are any other games which he had played in,” said Elliot. “And the decision will then be carried forward based on what the results of those games were.”
And the result of that SSFL probe could affect the outcome of the competition from top to bottom. Mucurapo could suddenly find themselves relegated. And they are not the only ones, as San Juan North Secondary look suddenly vulnerable.
Mucurapo manager Jimmy Arthur confirmed that they have already appealed the SSFL disciplinary committee’s decision, though.
Was the East Mucurapo management staff aware that the player did not have the number of passes required to play in the SSFL?
“We had discussions pertaining to that and we have made a decision on how we are going forward,” Arthur told Wired868. “So as it stands we are treating with that. We hope that it is dealt with in a timely manner.”
East Mucurapo head coach, Dale Saunders—who also coaches two-time Pro League champions Central FC—did not sound as confident as his team’s manager.
Saunders confirmed that Ramcharan, a slim but dogged defender, was a regular in his squad this season.
“I didn’t know we used a player who was ineligible,” said Saunders. “I thought every player we registered was legal. I was surprised that the player was used against the rules. I was just waiting to hear the outcome of the meeting.”
For now, the SSFL is awaiting for its appeal committee to rule before considering the possible implications to the disciplinary committee’s verdict.
“Since there is an appeal we did not want to go public as yet,” Elliot told Wired868. “We said we’ll let the process take its course. Once the appeal committee rules in favour of the decision of the disciplinary committee, then we would go to the next step of doing the sanctioning.”
Arthur suggested that Ramcharan could represent Mucurapo in Intercol action tomorrow against Diego Martin East. Elliot insisted otherwise.
It could end in tears for Mucurapo, who once fielded Trinidad and Tobago stars like Kevin Molino, Joevin Jones, Khaleem Hyland and ex-2006 World Cup forward Cornell Glen.
Mucurapo played in the inaugural Premier Division season in 2014 but were relegated—despite winning the National Intercol title that year. They bounced right back up to the top flight in 2016.
But, if the SSFL appeals committee endorses the decision of the disciplinary committee, they will go right back down to the Championship Division again.
And what will it do for the rest of the SSFL top flight?
Shiva Boys Hindu College won the Premier Division with a record 37 points. But they were held to a goalless draw by East Mucurapo. If Ramcharan played and Shiva Boys are awarded the win, the Penal-based school will move up to 39 points from a possible 42—surely a total that would not be easily overhauled.
There will be more emotion amongst the bottom four clubs, though.
Twelfth placed San Juan North defeated Mucurapo, so their points total would remain unchanged at 11. However, 13th placed Queen’s Royal College drew goalless with Mucurapo while 14th placed Pleasantville Secondary and table proppers Fatima College both lost to the school under investigation.
If the SSFL rules against East Mucurapo and he is found to have played against the three aforementioned teams, then Pleasantville would move to 13 points and 11th place while Fatima and QRC would end with 12 points each. And the three goals awarded to the victors would give Fatima a superior goal differential to the “Royalians” by a solitary item.
It would mean that East Mucurapo, San Juan North and QRC would be relegated, rather than—as it currently stands—Fatima, Pleasantville and QRC.
Today’s Championship Division Big 5 results confirmed promotion for Carapichaima East Secondary, Trinity College East and Speyside High School. Suddenly, there are question marks as to which schools that trio will replace.
SSFL Premier Division standings [At present]
(Tabulated as Played-Won-Drew-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)
10. East Mucurapo 14-4-3-7-13-19-15
11. St Benedict’s 14-3-3-8-7-21-12
12. San Juan North 14-3-2-9-21-24-11
13. QRC 14-2-4-8-8-20-10
14. Pleasantville 14-2-4-8-12-27-10
15. Fatima College 14-2-3-9-15-27-9
SSFL Premier Division standings [If Mucurapo are penalised for all their results]
(Tabulated as Played-Won-Drew-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)
10. St Benedict’s 14-4-3-7-9-19-15
11. Pleasantville 14-3-4-7-14-24-13
12. Fatima College 14-3-3-8-18-26-12
13. QRC 14-3-3-8-11-20-12
14. San Juan North 14-3-2-9-22-23-11
15. East Mucurapo 14-0-0-14-0-42-0