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Defence Force withdrawn from Pro League; Police plays… for now

Defence Force’s 2013/14 Pro League football season was thrown into limbo today after a directive from civil military affairs officer, Major Al Alexander ordered that “with immediate effect, all Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force’s involvement in national, regional and community type/level sporting activities is suspended in favour of the operational exigencies of the service and because of the particular requirements that our personnel are expected to satisfy.”

Defence Force, the defending Pro League champion, is on a bye this weekend and, even as a release was dispatched to the media, assistant coach Marvin Gordon and his players were in the dark with regards to their immediate fate.

In the end, it was bad news for the football team as they too will be enveloped by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s call to use every possible resource to tame the recent spike in violent crime, which led to 22 murders already in 2014.

Photo: Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon (far left) leads his bench in observing a minute's silence for murdered soldier Rawle Fletcher and "Soca Warrior" defender Akeem Adams on 3 January 2014. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Defence Force coach Marvin Gordon (far left) leads his bench in observing a minute’s silence for murdered soldier Rawle Fletcher and “Soca Warrior” defender Akeem Adams on 3 January 2014.
(Courtesy Wired868)

“This self-imposed suspension will last as long as is deemed necessary by the Force,” stated Alexander, who added that the move was necessary to “lend support to the police in the fight against crime.”

Ironically, it might the second time that the spiralling murder rate has damaged the Defence Force football team’s chances of retaining the Pro League crown.

In 2011, the Defence Force and Police FC teams were withdrawn from Pro League competition for three months after Persad-Bissessar called a State of Emergency. It led to a packed schedule for the “Teteron Boys” who were asked to play three times per week towards the end of the season and finished well behind eventual winners, DIRECTV W Connection.

There could be regional consequences too for Persad-Bissessar’s decision to somehow use the likes of Devorn Jorsling and Curtis Gonzales to police criminals. Defence Force is due to represent Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean qualifying series of the 2014 CONCACAF Club Championship, which starts in late February.

Photo: Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene (centre) hands the 2012/13 Pro League trophy over to stand-in Defence Force captain Kevon Carter. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Pro League CEO Dexter Skeene (centre) hands the 2012/13 Pro League trophy over to stand-in Defence Force captain Kevon Carter.
(Courtesy Wired868)

At best, coach Ross Russell’s men could miss out on vital match practice before their CONCACAF campaign starts; while, at worse, Defence Force could miss the series altogether.

Caledonia AIA is the other Trinidad and Tobago qualifier for the Caribbean tournament.

It is uncertain whether the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) would allow the Pro League to select a replacement team for Defence Force as the CONCACAF fixtures have already been drawn up. If the Pro League does get to nominate a standby, W Connection will again be the beneficiary as the “Savonetta Boys” finished third in the 2012/13 season.

Like Gordon, Police FC coach Richard Hood, a sergeant in the Emergency and Guard Branch, remains without official confirmation of his team’s immediate fate.

Hours after the Defence Force top brass decided its sporting teams’ fate, word had not yet filtered down to the soldiers who comprise the country’s defending football champions.

There might have been similar miscommunication with the ranks of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service as Hood and his officers prepare to face Connection from 6 pm today. Whether or not it the supposed impotence of Trinidad and Tobago’s servicemen is down to flawed administration rather than a lack of numbers is another story.

Photo: Promising Police FC teenager Joel Lewis (right) attempts a pass while being harrassed by St Ann's Rangers defender Jemel Berot. Lewis, who is not a policeman, will be sweating over whether Police FC will be permitted to continue in the Pro League. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Promising Police FC teenager Joel Lewis (right) attempts a pass while being harrassed by St Ann’s Rangers defender Jemel Berot.
Lewis, who is not a policeman, will be sweating over whether Police FC will be permitted to continue in the Pro League.
(Courtesy Wired868)

Today, Police FC coach Richard Hood sent text messages to his players this morning that read: “The game is on.” But it might be a temporary reprieve.

“Some of the players had called me yesterday asking about if the game (against Connection) is on,” Hood told Wired868. “I still haven’t heard anything but rumours about if we will be able to play (in the long term). As far as I know, we can.”

At present, Connection is top of the standings and unbeaten with 20 points from eight games while Police is second with 13 points although only goal difference separates the “Lawmen” from North East Stars and Defence Force.

Defence Force statement:

Please be advised that with immediate effect, all Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force’s involvement in national, regional and community type/level sporting activities is suspended in favour of the operational exigencies of the service and because of the particular requirements that our personnel are expected to satisfy.

This self imposed suspension will last as long as is deemed necessary by the Force.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force takes this opportunity to wish all the Sporting Fraternities and Associations success in this upcoming sporting season.

A Alexander
Major
Civil Military Affairs Officer

10 January 2014

AboutLasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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