“North-South-East-West, Naparima is the best!”
Naparima College students and supporters were in good voice yesterday as their team retained its SSFL Premier Division championship with the easiest of 1-0 victories over challengers Shiva Boys Hindu College at the Ato Boldon Stadium. For the second straight season, Naps have secured the top division title after doing battle with the Penal schoolboys; on this occasion, they have a five- point lead with just one round of matches remaining.
The decisive battle proved not to be the exciting season finale school football lovers had hoped for as both teams struggled to find fluency despite the presence of a vocal 900-strong crowd. Instead, nervous and scrappy play was the order of the day, a far cry from the stuff the two southern schools had often displayed in the course of the season.
A satisfied Naparima coach Angus Eve conceded that the game “wasn’t pretty” but said it was “the perfect one for me.”
“Give credit to Shiva,” he told Wired868, “because they are a very good team but we nullified their strengths, what they are good at.”
Eve also had high praise for midfield general Shane Sandy and his tireless and “influential” skipper, Michael Basdeo whose 10th minute goal sealed the match and the title.
The game was an essentially lacklustre affair, but Basdeo’s early goal emphatically was not. Far from it. When a short free kick was rolled to him, the Naps’ busy central midfielder emerged from the shadows of his more celebrated attacking teammates to curl a scrumptious 26-yard shot past a hapless Denzil Smith in goal for Shiva Boys…
Seemingly overawed by the great challenge posed by Basdeo’s early goal, the Penal schoolboys were guilty of giving away a flurry of free kicks in the early stages of the first half. The defenders had particular difficulty dealing with Naparima forwards Isaiah Hudson and Jarred Dass whose explosive pace often left them with few options.
Gordon Maloney, carrying the whistle, also did little to help the pace of the game, passing up no opportunity to stop the play; much to the loudly voiced disgust of a few passionate supporters of both sides.
Set pieces and dead ball opportunities – of which there were oh so many –looked the most likely source of any additional goals in the first half but neither team could capitalise.
In the 16th minute, Basdeo came close to repeating his heroics of six minutes earlier, swerving a free kick just over the bar but Shiva midfielder Shaquille John wasted half-a-dozen chances to pull his team even, failing to hit the goal frame even once.
If John, scorer of a stunning free kick seven days ago against St Anthony’s, was in last week’s highlight reel, he will be hoping television editors don’t have a lowlight reel this week, yesterday’s efforts behind the dead ball proving to be an absolute horror show.
Shiva belatedly got into stride just past the half-hour mark when winger Quinn “Flash” Rodney was switched from the left flank to the right. Naps left-back Khris Stroud was having a hard time keeping up with Flash and, in the 39th minute, the winger sped past him in a neat exchange with Shiva’s playmaker-in-chief Tyrell “Pappy” Emmanuel only to see the lanky John fail to make the most of the chance he had created.
At the start of the second half, the defending SSFL champions sought to knock out the little fight left in Shiva Boys while the Naparima rhythm section attempted to heat things up in the arena. Shiva’s loudest cheer of the half, however, came when rapturous applause marked the introduction of pint-sized midfielder Judah Garcia in the 56th minute. But that made no difference to the eventual outcome.
Traffic in the game was heading in the wrong direction for Shiva and Smith was called upon to make a smart intervention at the edge of his box as Naps winger Renaldo Francois sought to latch on to an incisive through ball from Sandy.
The willing Rodney was Shiva’s brightest spark on the day and, with just under quarter of regulation time left in the game, he came within a whisker of restoring parity in the contest. His right-footed shot ricocheted off Levi Fernandez’s right upright, leaving him and his team’s supporters frustrated.
As the seconds ticked away, Shiva’s quest for an equaliser looked more and more elusive and Fernandez and Naps proved themselves determined not to let Shiva. When a long blast of Maloney’s whistle finally brought the contest to an end, Naps had completed their seventh clean sheet of the season and bagged their second successive championship.
Cue the celebrations!
“It’s always difficult to repeat,” two-time Premier Division-winning coach Eve said, “but I think it boils down to the work which we did in the pre-season and the consistency we showed throughout the season.”
“With God anything is possible,” he added, “and without him nothing is. So we want to give thanks and praise to the Almighty for the strength and wisdom he gave me and my coaching staff.”
Eve didn’t say it but he will be hoping for continued strength and additional wisdom during the battle for the National Intercol title which starts next month.
Naparima: (4-2-3-1): 22.Levi Fernandez (GK); 20.Rondell Payne, 16.Anderson Toussaint, 19.Stephon Smith, 3.Khris Stroud; 11.Shane Sandy, 8.Michael Basdeo (captain); 23.Renaldo Francois (21.Justin Sadoo 89), 5.Kierron Mason (6.Judah St Louis 70), 12.Jarred Dass (4.Nicholas Thomas 70); 18.Isaiah Hudson.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Darriel Kurjah (GK), 2.Tyrike Andrews, 7.Akinola Gregory, 9.Shobal Celestin.
Coach: Angus Eve
Shiva: (4-1-4-1): 24.Denzil Smith (GK); 15.Jabari Graham, 8.Isaiah Garcia, 12.Kyle Sylvester (captain), 5.Jerome Samuel (21.Jelani Halls 68); 11.Yohannes Richardson (10.Judah Garcia 56); 14.Ronaldo Edwards, 33.Shaquille John (9.Malik Lewis 73), 6.Tyrel “Pappy” Emmanuel, 7.Quinn Rodney; 16.Simeon De Bourgh.
Unused Substitutes: 1.Adrian McLaren, 17.Mark Ramdeen, 18.Junior Assoon, 22.John McIntyre.
Coach: Hayden Ryan
Referee: Gordon Maloney
Man of the Match: Michael Basdeo (Naparima College)
FULL RESULTS for Saturday October 24
SSFL Premier Division
Trinity College Moka 1, San Juan North 0, Moka;
St Augustine 3, Fyzabad Secondary 0, St Augustine;
St Benedict’s College 3, St Mary’s College 1, Mahaica Oval;
Fatima College 2, Speyside High 1, Fatima;
St Anthony’s College 1, QRC 0, Westmoorings;
Naparima College 1 (Michael Basdeo 10), Shiva Boys HC 0, Ato Boldon Stadium;
Trinity College East 0, Presentation San F’do 5, Trincity
Wednesday October 28
SSFL Premier Division Fixtures
Carapichima East v St Augustine, 3.45 pm, Carapichaima;
St Mary’s College v Trinity College Moka, 3.45 pm, St Mary’s;
Fyzabad Secondary v Fatima College, 3.45 pm, Fyzabad;
QRC v St Benedict’s College, 3.45 pm, QRC;
Speyside High v Naparima College, 3.45 pm, Speyside;
Presentation San F’do v St Anthony’s College, 3.45 pm, Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;
Shiva Boys HC v Trinity College East, 3.45 pm, Penal,
SSFL Premier Division Standings
(Tabulate Played-Won-Drew-Lost-Goals for-Goals against-Points)
Naparima College 13-10-2-1-25-6-32
Presentation SF 13-8-3-2-26-14-27
St Benedict’s 13-7-4-2-19-13-25
St Anthony’s 13-7-3-3-21-18-24
St Augustine Sec 13-7-2-4-24-16-23
Shiva Boys HC 13-6-5-2-18-11-23
San Juan North 14-7-0-7-20-16-21
St Mary’s College 13-6-1-6-23-17-19
Trinity Moka 13-3-5-5-21-23-14
Fyzabad Sec 13-4-1-8-14-23-13
Fatima College 13-2-4-7-16-24-10
Speyside High 13-3-1-9-15-32-10
Carapichaima E 13-1-5-7-9-21-8
Trinity East 13-1-0-12-11-35-3