St Anthony’s College moved to the top of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division this morning, after a successful protest against Shiva Boys Hindu College. And the “Westmoorings Tigers” can wrap up the title by this weekend if they manage wins over Presentation College (San Fernando) and St Mary’s College respectively this week.
The Tigers host third-placed Presentation College from 3.40pm this afternoon while they travel to Serpentine Road in St Clair on Saturday afternoon to face mid-table St Mary’s.
If St Anthony’s pull it off, they will become the first school outside of the South Zone to win the Premier Division since its inception in 2014.
At present, the Tigers have scored a mammoth 39 goals from 12 league matches—11 more items than the second most prolific team, Naparima College—while their midfield dynamo, Che Benny, leads all scorers with 10 goals. In fact, Benny hit the back of the net 11 times but had one free kick item against Fyzabad Secondary disallowed after the latter school was tossed out for falsifying the documentation of a couple of their players.
So far this season, there have been 12 matches annulled and 34 goals ruled out in a year that will be memorable for all the wrong reasons. The latest game to be scrapped was a 2-2 draw between St Anthony’s and Shiva Boys on 7 October in Westmoorings.
On 6 October, Shiva Boys—whose administrative affairs are handled by team manager Sheldon Maharaj and principal Dexter Sakal—corrected an error in the registration of 19-year-old midfielder Kierron Mason and finally secured his clearance from the Trinidad and Tobago Super League (TTSL).
St Anthony’s principal Maurice Inniss lodged an appeal against the result of the game between the two schools standing on the grounds that the player had not been registered for 72 hours before his first game, as stipulated by Article 16 subsection two of the SSFL Constitution.
It was the same rule—remarkably involving the same player as well—which Naparima had cited in attempting successfully to have their loss to Shiva Boys on the opening day of the season overturned.
Worse, Mason’s registration for another six SSFL games is likely to be questioned too.
On Monday 16 October, a two-man disciplinary committee—consisting of SSFL general secretary Azaad Khan and North Zone secretary Roger Martin—opted to “warn” Shiva Boys about their use of an improperly registered Mason but not to deduct points.
Fatima College and Queen’s Royal College have already indicated their intention to appeal but were unable to do so on a technicality that the SSFL’s decision was never officially relayed to its general membership.
SSFL president William Wallace explained why the remaining 14 Premier Division schools—excluding the suspended Fyzabad—were not informed of the pardon granted to Shiva Boys.
“Normally, a protest would come from a school and so when the matter is dealt with both schools—the protesting school and the one facing the protest—would be informed after the hearing,” Wallace told Wired868. “In this case, no school protested the matter; it was information that was picked up and dealt with directly by the Committee. So they just informed the school that was involved.
“But now that we have a third party interest, we asked [the Disciplinary Committee] to send [its decision] to everybody, especially the two schools who enquired about the status of the matter.
“So these schools were given the response from the Disciplinary Committee […] yesterday evening. I don’t know if they are satisfied with what they read or if they will appeal the decision of the Committee.”
Fatima principal Father Gregory Augustine told Wired868 this morning that he had not yet received any correspondence on the issue. Some other schools said the same.
The Premier Division’s final round of official fixtures is this Saturday but, owing to postponements related to inclement weather, there will be rescheduled matches played on Monday 30 October and Friday 3 November.
The SSFL’s decision not to ensure that all teams play their final match at the same time means relegation-threatened schools—like Trinity College Moka, Signal Hill Secondary and St Benedict’s College—will know the results necessary to survive while QRC, Carapichaima East Secondary and, possibly, Speyside High must look on helplessly from the sidelines with crossed fingers.
Speyside High are at the bottom of the table at present and can be in deeper trouble if St Benedict’s win a protest against them—the sixth major off-the-field challenge of the season—over ground security.
Speyside defeated St Benedict’s 1-0 in Tobago on Wednesday 11 October but there were insufficient security officials at the match.
“When our executive met two weeks ago, we decided we must have three police officers on the ground for all matches,” said Wallace. “If you try to get police but they didn’t show, there is a fall-back position with a certain number of security officials [who should be there]; but you have to show proof that you tried to get the police.
“If there is no security, the game should not be played at all. But the game between Speyside and St Benedict’s was played so that matter is pending.”
If St Benedict’s are awarded the points, it will take them four points clear of the drop zone. But it will certainly mean curtains for Speyside, who will then be one of three teams to be relegated, joining the already ejected Fyzabad.
At present, Valencia Secondary, Bishop’s High School (Tobago), East Mucurapo Secondary, Moruga Secondary and Chaguanas North Secondary are doing battle in the ongoing Championship Division Big 5 competition for the three places available in next year’s Premier Division.
At this rate, they are competing to enter an arguably tarnished competition.
Three weeks ago, Trinidad and Tobago National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence and technical director Anton Corneal were singing the SSFL’s praises for the competitive nature and improved quality of the matches. And Wallace and his executive were being congratulated for programmes like a pre-season coaching education course and first responder medical exercises.
But Fyzabad’s use of falsified examination certificates to register two of their players, captain Dez Jones and midfielder Maurice Dick, plus Shiva Boys’ problems in registering Mason—a former Naparima student and National Under-20 player who took a year off from school—has hogged the headlines.
“I think games are supposed to be decided on the field of play and I am uncomfortable that so many games are being decided in the boardroom,” said Wallace. “But you also have to blame some of the schools [that are being punished] because the regulations are clear but some schools seem not to be reading the regulations.”
Wallace sounded a warning to all 15 Premier Division participants that they needed to be mindful of the reputation of the SSFL and not just their own interests. He pointed to rumours that some unnamed schools were holding on to information about administrative errors from rivals with the intention of using them at the end of the season, if necessary, for their own survival.
“Some schools are keeping information close to their chest and waiting for other teams to keep on making mistakes so they can capitalise,” said Wallace. “But that [making the error] is not only affecting that school but the reputation of the League. This is our business and each person is a stakeholder, so I think people have to look beyond winning games and consider how it affects the reputation of the League.”
The SSFL president, who only took up the reins in April after former boss Anthony Creed completed his term and stepped aside, said the Executive intends to rise to the challenge and clean up the competition.
He pointed out that many of the issues coming to the fore have existed for some time and the onus was now on the Executive to find solutions.Next season, the SSFL reverts to a 15-team competition—special dispensation was given to San Juan North to compete this year after a post-season protest against East Mucurapo prompted their putative relegation last season. But Wallace believes they should consider even fewer schools in the top flight, if they hope to get a handle on the various administrative issues.
A major problem, he explained, is that the SSFL season starts in the first week of school when players are still trying to finalise transfers or are still entering lower sixth form.
“My position is that the Premier Division should have even less teams so as to give us a chance to start later in September,” said Wallace. “That way, we can have a clearing house that will have enough time to vet all this information. It is something I will take to the next general meeting; but, if they don’t agree, we will have to find another way.
“We cannot start the league any later with 15 or 16 teams because that would take us into December where we have internal exams and so on and we don’t want to interfere with the students’ exam period.”
Wallace said the SSFL is at the crossroads.
“People are also saying that a lot of these things have been happening for a long time,” said Wallace. “So I am glad at least this Executive is taking action where there needs to be action. Under my leadership, I promise that we will take action no matter who is involved—we have been tarnished by unscrupulous behaviour but we will clean up the League. It cannot be business as usual.
“We are going to have a special meeting where we sit down and go through all the rules and regulations. They are there but [the schools] seem not to be reading it—all besides Fyzabad, of course, which is a matter that went beyond that.”
Wallace, a former National Senior Team manager for the Trinidad and Tobago cricket and football teams, said school teams need to look beyond their narrow interests and urged participants to ensure the close of the season and the upcoming Coca Cola National Intercol competition are remembered for all the right reasons.
“I need, as President of the League, to have a serious discussion with schools and coaches about how the actions we are taking are affecting the survival of the League in terms of our sponsors,” said Wallace, “and even how we come across to lovers of secondary schools football. Right now, it doesn’t look good at all.
“So we have to have a serious discussion about the direction where people are taking the League [because they] are taking it in a direction where it can crash. I hope that we finish the league on a positive note and all the excitement going forward will be on the field of play.”
Before the SSFL gets there, however, there is a matter between Speyside and St Benedict’s to adjudicate. And possibly one between Fatima/QRC and Shiva Boys as well.
Upcoming Premier Division fixtures
(Wednesday 25 October)
St Anthony’s College v Presentation College, 3.40pm, St Anthony’s;
QRC v Naparima College, 3.40pm, QRC;
Trinity College Moka v Carapichaima East, 3.40pm, Moka;
Fatima College v St Benedict’s College, 3.40pm, Fatima;
Shiva Boys HC v Signal Hill, 3.40pm, Morne Diablo;
Trinity College East v St Mary’s College, 3.40pm, Serpentine Road, St Clair;
San Juan North v St Augustine Secondary, 3.40pm, San Juan;
Speyside High are on a bye.
Championship Division Big 5 results
(Tuesday 24 October)
Bishop’s High School 2, Chaguanas North 0 at Plymouth;
Valencia Secondary 4, Moruga Secondary 2 at El Dorado;
East Mucurapo Secondary are on a bye.
Upcoming Big 5 fixtures
(Friday 27 October)
Chaguanas North vs Valencia Secondary, 3:30pm, Ato Boldon Stadium;
East Mucurapo vs Moruga Secondary, 3:30pm, Fatima ground;
Bishop’s High School are on a bye.
Updated SSFL Standings
(Played-Won-Drew-Lost-Goals For-Goals Against-Points)
- St Anthony’s 12-9-2-1-39-17-29
- Naparima 12-9-2-1-28-11-29
- Presentation 10-7-1-2-22-11-22
- Shiva Boys HC 10-6-1-3-24-14-19
- San Juan N 12-4-6-2-25-13-18
- Fatima 10-6-0-4-14-13-18
- Trinity East 10-5-1-4-19-11-16
- St Mary’s 11-4-3-4-26-25-15
- Carapichaima E 12-4-2-5-19-20-14
- QRC 13-4-2-7-21-28-14
- St Augustine 11-4-1-6-22-24-13
- St Benedict’s 11-2-3-6-16-25-9
- Signal Hill 11-2-2-7-11-21-8
- Trinity Moka 10-2-1-7-13-30-7
- Speyside High 13-2-1-10-7-43-7