As per usual, there were goals aplenty as North Zone action in the Republic Bank Youth League (RBYL) continued on Saturday 4 May at the spacious Queen’s Park Savannah.
Northern powerhouses Trendsetter Hawks (A) stayed perfect in this year’s competition with wins in the Under-11, Under-15 and Under-17 categories, while the Trendsetter (B) outfit toppled their (A) counterparts in a peculiar game in the Under-13 division.
The 3-1 result for Trendsetter (B) in the U-13s which featured a goal from Jamaal Jemmott—son of former Soca Warriors playmaker Kerwin “Hardest” Jemmott—and some comedic errors by Trendsetter (A) custodian Ethan Agard saw the two Trendsetter outfits sitting atop the six-team table with nine points apiece once the action was concluded.
While the fixture between the Trendsetters resembled a training session or a Sunday sweat between old pals, the Under-13 encounter which followed—between Empire FC and Trinidad and Tobago Maestros—was anything but.
Empire came into the contest on six points while Maestros, who were on a paltry three points, sensed the need for added urgency and threw everything they had at coach Gyasi Nkrumah’s young Empire. Perhaps coach Sheldon De Freitas told his Maestros to ‘attack with full force!’ before the start of the encounter. Whatever the little Maestros were told, it made for an enterprising hour of football.
The Maestros camped in the Empire half during the first period, although their defenders Tevin Brooks, Anton Collins, Dareem Gay and goalie Leik Won David were kept busy by the lively attacking duo of Josante Duncan and Josiah Fernandes at the other end.
Just before the interval, bustling attacker Calsan Stowe gave Maestros the lead with a rifled effort into the top corner after a mad scramble in the area. But while Maestros’ first half lead was deserved, there were warning signs at the other end; and the second half proved to be a different kettle of fish.
“I think in the first half we played well but we just didn’t capitalise on the chances we had,” Nkrumah told Wired868. “We had about three chances where we were one-on-one with the goalkeeper and we didn’t make it count.”
A daring David was partly responsible for that, as the Maestros goalkeeper twice came charging out of his area in real sweeper-keeper style to thwart Duncan and Fernandes, while Collins made a goal-line clearance on another occasion.
“Not here brother man!” exclaimed David, after dealing with a long range first half effort from Empire midfielder Seth Eve—the son of former national midfield stalwart Angus Eve.
Curiously, David and Stowe swapped roles in the second half and failed to have the same impact on the game thereafter. Stowe was beaten by two penalty conversions—hardly his own fault—while David was a peripheral figure as an outfield player.
Duncan warmed up to the occasion though, and the slender attacker, who sported a pair of dazzling orange boots, was absolutely unplayable in the second half. Time and again, Duncan left the Maestros defence in his wake but could not land the decisive blow.
Kierron Herbert eventually got Empire back on level terms with a 44th minute penalty and Nkrumah’s troops ruled thereafter.
They left it dramatically late though.
Duncan saw a 59th minute free kick well stopped by Stowe. Seconds later, it would be his strike partner Fernandes who got the game clincher, as he arrowed a low, left-footer into the far corner after the ball fell invitingly to him in the area.
Wild celebrations ensued among the Empire faithful as Fernandes’ mum and Nkrumah stormed the field to embrace the players.
“That’s Fernandes with an ‘s’,” said Josiah’s mum with a smile and a chuckle, as she made her way back to the sidelines.
Not to be left out, Duncan thumped a penalty past Stowe in added-on time after he was upended by Collins during another of his mesmerising runs.
Now, Empire have to regroup for the challenge of Trendsetter (A) on 11 May. Nkrumah says they’ll be ready.
“I find [the Trendsetter A] game today was kinda suspect,” said Nkrumah. “I saw a lot of younger players playing for them too. But that’s how it goes.
“The kids understand the game. It’s just about giving them the motivation to come and play in front of a crowd and against teams who have been around for a while like Trendsetter and Queen’s Park Cricket Club.
“It’s all about giving them that confidence and ensuring that they are prepared.”
The Maestros could not hold off a charging Empire in the Under-13 division, but they just about did enough to outlast North Coast SCC in the Under-15 division as they came out 3-2 victors.
Slick as per normal, Maestro’s Under-13 standouts such as Brooks, David and Gay also featured for the Under-15 outfit. Brooks, whose poise on the ball belies his tender age, was utilised as an attacker in the higher age group and did not disappoint.
A shrewd dead ball taker, young Brooks got the crucial goal with a swerving free kick in the 40th minute, which left North Coast’s diminutive goalkeeper clutching at thin air.
Brooks’ item put the Maestros 3-nil up—thanks to a quick early double from Nathaniel Mason—and they seemed to be cruising to a comfortable victory. However, as their Under-13 clash with Empire suggested, holding on to leads is not a strong suit of the Maestros.
North Coast, who currently sit bottom of the nine-team Under-15 table with a solitary point, roared back. Nathaniel Pierre thumped a left-footed bullet into the top corner in the 50th minute while, nine minutes later, Aaron Marcano added another for the underdogs.
Try as they might, North Coast just could not manage to eke out that equalizer. Too little, too late.
There were no such thrills and spills in the Under-15 clash between QPCC and St Mary’s College, as a spurned second half opportunity by QPCC’s Logan Clarke was as close as either team came in a goalless draw.
There were more than enough goals to share at around 9am on Saturday though, as the Trendsetter Hawks (A) Under-15 Team put on a finishing exhibition in a 20-nil rout of eighth-placed Laventille United. Yes, 20 goals to nil.
As the young Hawks run amok, under the eagle eye of coach Travis Mulraine, officials and spectators milled around perplexed.
“When I see the score, I say was a cricket game going on,” said one spectator.
“I didn’t know Dada and them have a cricket side now,” another chimed in. “Twenty without loss yes!”
Trendsetter’s 20 goals in the 70-minute affair came at a ratio of one every 3.5 minutes, with Christon Calder bagging a beaver trick while Theo Crovador, Renard Frederick and Jameel Hassan helped themselves to hat-tricks.
The resounding victory took Trendsetter (A) up to 15 points after five matches and their massive goal differential could probably count as an additional point.
2017 RBNYL Under-15 finalists, RSSR—named after four former national standouts in Reynold George, Sammy Llewellyn, Selris Figaro and Russell Tesheira—are second with 12 points, while Santa Cruz United have nine. RSSR and Santa Cruz have played one match less than Mulraine’s team.
Trendsetter (A), thanks to a no-show by North Coast, remained perfect in the Under-11 division after five games. However, things are congested at the top of that table with QPCC also able to boast of five straight wins.
On Saturday, Raegan Rowe, Zayden Suite and Samuel Smyth scored within an eight-minute span in the second half to guide the “Parkites” to a 3-nil victory over Excelente FA.
Remarkably, neither Trendsetter (A) nor QPCC sit atop the 11-team Under-11 standings. That spot belongs to RBYL debutants, Pro Series, who have amassed 18 points from their six matches and certainly turned some heads with their neat passing style and cohesive play.
Perhaps more impressively, Pro Series are yet to concede a goal in this year’s tournament.
On Saturday, 10-year-old defender Kaitlyn Darwent cut a composed, smart figure at the back for Pro Series while Empire captain and midfielder Mikaela Yearwood, also 10, impressed too. Their respective coaches believe they will be forces to be reckoned with once their sustained development continues.
Paul Decle, the Pro Series coach, indicated that his current Under-11 group has been together for roughly a year. To the neutral, it seems hard to believe. His players never seem to waste a pass while their technique was admirable as well.
“It’s the first time this team is playing together in any competition [and] it’s a great learning experience for them,” Decle told Wired868. “They’re moving from being individual type players to more team-oriented players… Due to the fact that it’s a national tournament, it allows us to test them against some of the better teams that they have out there…
“We’re not a results-focused type of organisation; because of the age [of our players], we don’t want to put pressure on the players just to win game. It’s important that they enjoy the experience and it gives the coaches a chance to look at them and see what are the areas that need improvement going forward as they advance to the older age groups.
“[…] Trinidad is full of talent so it’s really exciting to come and see [new] teams and the talent which exists on those teams as well.”
So far so good for Pro Series then?
On Saturday, back-to-back 2-0 wins over Santa Cruz and Rosary Boys saw them retain their perfect record. Something will have to give when they face the likes of QPCC and Trendsetter though.
It was not all fun and games for the RBYL players last week, though.
Four years ago, a youngster by the name of Luke Williams grabbed Wired868’s attention with a string of impressive displays for Trendsetter’s Under-11 outfit.
And, despite being just 14 years of age, Williams got on the score summary for Trendsetter Hawks’ Under-17 Team in their clash with Crown Trace FC, earlier this season.
But it was not his football skills that brought him to national prominence last Monday, as he was shot dead while allegedly attempting to rob a St James business place.
Trendsetter won 5-0 without Williams on Saturday against the Fyzabad-based Giving Back FC with Kaihim Thomas netting a hat-trick while Jaheim Aguillera and Kiron Manswell chipped in a goal apiece.
The victory was Trendsetter’s fifth straight win in the Under-17 category and keeps them above challengers such as Petit Valley/ Diego Martin and Jaric Titans (Tobago). But ‘Dada’, who is the 2017 recipient of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee (TTOC) Alexander B Chapman award for his work with youngsters from at-risk communities, would’ve preferred to win another type of battle off the field of play.
“The news wasn’t that shocking because as time went on we realised that he was going through a little phase,” said Wickham, as he recalled his last conversation with Williams. “I said Luke, is save I trying to save your life. That’s basically what I was trying to do. We were seeing him straying and starting to get less interested in the football.
“He said he was not getting the vibes to come and play; and I’m talking about after the first game in the Under-17 division where Luke scored against Crown Trace… So from a little fellah who had the joy and passion for the game, it reached a stage where he wasn’t feeling to play any football anymore.”
Williams’ tragic end is a sober reminder of the dangers that lay await for the nation’s youth.
RBNYL North Zone Results (Saturday 4 May)[All games played at the Queen’s Park Savannah]
QPCC 3 (Raegan Rowe 33, Zayden Suite 36, Samuel Smyth 39), Excelente FA 0;
Pro Series 2 (Hashim Portillo 2, Preston Watkins 37), Santa Cruz United 0;
North Coast SCC, Trendsetter Hawks (A);
*- Trendsetter won 3-0 by default.
Trendsetter Hawks (B) 0, Santa Cruz United 2 (Jeremiah Caesar 10, 30);
Rosary Boys 0, Pro Series 2 (Blaine Popwell 11, Jalen Hislop 30);
T&T Maestros 0, Football Factory 1 (Tristan Belmontes 26);
St Mary’s College 1 (Gabriel Lewis 2), QPCC 2 (Luc Lee King 10, Dominic Douglas 11);
Trendsetter Hawks (A) 1 (Kyle Williams 42), Trendsetter Hawks (B) 3 (Daryl Thompson 31, Micaiah Thomas 39, Jamaal Jemmott 48);
Empire FC 3 (Kierron Herbert 44 pen, Josiah Fernandes 60, Josante Duncan 60+ pen), T&T Maestros 1 (Calsan Stowe 29);
Trendsetter Hawks (A) 20 (Jameel Hassan , Renard Frederick , Christon Calder , Jose Attong , Joshua Miller , Theo Crovador , Nixon Lashley, Akeil Auguste, Hackim Elliott), Laventille United 0;
Santa Cruz United 3 (Malachi Smith 52, Christian Browne 55, Anthony Fox 67), Trendsetter Hawks (B) 0;
QPCC 0, St Mary’s College 0;
T&T Maestros 3 (Nathaniel Mason 4, 8, Tevin Brooks 40), North Coast SCC 2 (Nathaniel Pierre 50, Aaron Marcano 59);
RSSR are on a bye.
QPCC 1, Jaric Titans 2 (Nigel Burnette 26, Quincy Winchester 41);
Giving Back FC 0, Trendsetter Hawks 5 (Kaihim Thomas 17, 62, 73, Jaheim Aguillera 28, Kiron Manswell 39);
Crown Trace FC, Prisons FC;
*–Prisons FC won 3-0 by default.