Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s response to Trinidad and Tobago’s crime problem might again spell chaos for the local Pro League competition as the Defence Force and Police football clubs admitted that they were waiting anxiously for news on their immediate futures.
Defence Force is the defending Pro League champion club and will represent Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean stage of the CONCACAF Club Championship tournament in just over a month’s time while Police FC is enjoying a surprise resurgence and are second in the nine-team table at present.
However, Persad-Bissessar’s knee-jerk reaction to 22 murders in the first eight days of 2014 could mean the servicemen are forced to postpone football duties.
“We trained as normal this morning and no one has told us anything yet,” said Defence Force assistant coach Marvin Gordon. “But I heard they stopped basketball already…
“We have registered and everything for CONCACAF already and we are going about things as normal for now until the management calls us and says otherwise.”
Police coach Richard Hood, a sergeant in the Guard and Emergency Branch, has heard the rumours too that policemen might be banned from all “extra-curricular activities” and is waiting anxiously on confirmation.
“I heard the talk this morning but nobody has told me anything (from inside the Police Service),” said Hood. “So, we just have to wait.”
The Pro League might balk at being considered a recreational tournament for anyone; but it has suffered from the People’s Partnership wrangle with crime before.
Two years ago, a State of Emergency meant the immediate withdrawal of the Defence Force and Police teams for almost three months and wreaked havoc with the Pro League fixtures. Defence Force was the defending champion then too but eventually finished well behind DIRECTV W Connection in the standings.
Ironically, just two Police players were members of the Service last year. But there has been a significant increase in recruitment since then and the “Lawmen” have benefited on the field.
“Only about six or seven players are not in the force right now,” said Hood, who played during Police’s glory era in the late-1980s and early-1990s. “It has helped us tremendously because we are now able to train with consistency and the players can attend sessions all the time, whereas when they were civilians they had to go hustle to make a dollar.
“Now one of their duties is to play football and that has made our job in administration much easier.”
The new Police recruits could soon have a more sober calling as Persad-Bissessar attempts to make a statement to the electorate.
At present, Police is scheduled to face leaders W Connection from 6 pm at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Friday 10 January. Utility player Clevon McFee has returned to Hood’s ranks after a brief stint with St Ann’s Rangers and he is joined by former Rangers teammate Kurdell Braithwaite.
McFee and Braithwaite, like teammates Jason Lewis, Christon Thomas, Jabari Williams and Adrian Foncette, are not policemen but could find themselves looking on at the Pro League from the sidelines if the Police squad is withdrawn.
The Defence Force team, which is on a bye at present, is further hit by the possibility of missing out on CONCACAF competition, which is a privilege enjoyed only by the top two League finishers each season. However, the “Teteron Boys” have been more closely hit than most by the recent bloodletting after footballer and Lance Corporal Rawle Fletcher was murdered outside a Couva bar on Sunday 22 December 2013.
“He was a real instrumental part of the team for the last few years,” said Gordon, in a previous interview. “He was in my batch too and we were really close, so it real hit me hard.”
The Government is committed to doing whatever it deems necessary to halt violent crime. The Pro League will hope the withdrawal of the country’s uniformed footballers would be unnecessary to that plan.
Digicel Pro League fixtures
(Friday January 10)
DIRECTV W Connection vs Police FC, 6 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;
Caledonia AIA vs Central FC, 8 pm, Hasely Crawford Stadium;
(Saturday January 11)
Point Fortin Civic vs North East Stars, 3.30 pm, Mahaica Oval;
San Juan Jabloteh vs St Ann’s Rangers, 3.30 pm, Larry Gomes Stadium.[standings league_id=1 template=extend logo=true]
Related story: Defence Force player Rawle Fletcher murdered in Couva. Click here to read.