Another season of the Republic Bank Youth League (RBYL) is in the books. And for the second consecutive season, the young, aspiring footballers from Trendsetter Hawks and Trincity Nationals were smiling from ear to ear and holding silverware aloft.
In 2018, Trendsetter copped the Under-12 and Under-16 titles, while Trincity lifted the Under-14 crown, courtesy a victory over Tobago’s Jaric Titans. And at the RBYL 2019 finale on Saturday 6 July at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Trendsetter walked away with the Under-11 and Under-13 honours, while Trincity took home the Under-15 title.
As Trincity coach Joel Warrick promised after the conclusion of the semi-final round, Jaric were forced to return to Tobago empty-handed, although not on the Jean De La Valette, as he had warned. In what was virtually a rematch of the 2018 Under-14 final, Trincity got the better of Jaric’s Under-15 outfit by a 3-nil margin.
As Warrick summarised it, Jaric put up a decent fight. However, the overall result was never really in doubt, as the Tobago outfit appeared disjointed in midfield and were rarely threatened Nicholas Whiteman in the Trincity goal.
Whiteman was stellar throughout the 2019 RBYL season and saved four penalties in their quarterfinal win over Trendsetter Hawks and two in their tense semi-final shootout against the stylish FC Ginga.
Those performances paved the way for Whiteman to be crowned the Most Valuable Player in the Under-15 division. On Saturday, though, Whiteman had barely anything to do beside collect his winners’ medal and trophies for the MVP and Best Goalkeeper accolades.
After lanky Trincity attacker Riley Hill came close to opening the scoring on a couple of occasions, his team freakishly took the lead in the 33rd minute when goalkeeper Jaheim Thomas fumbled an in-swinging right-side corner from Siddiq Damree, which settled in the back of the net.
Once ahead, Trincity were more fluent on the ball while Jaric’s indecisive play at the back only made things worse for the visitors. In the 42nd minute, Trincity midfielder Harrison Parks curled in a peach of an effort from just inside the area after Jaric failed to deal with a dangerous set piece.
And in the 62nd minute, Ishmael Probherbs put the result beyond all doubt when he tucked home from close range, after attacker Caleb Hill flicked on a diagonal ball from the right side. Trincity were three goals to the good and cruising to the defence of their national title.
The journey didn’t start on Saturday though, and Warrick gave some insight into Trincity’s mindset as they progressed throughout the season.
“We started our season in March because we were preparing for Disney and I had to convince the boys that everybody wouldn’t be going to Disney,” Warrick told Wired868. “But Disney is only one week. I had to get that into their heads. We started the RBYL and we played about three games. The guys performed well at [the Disney tournament] and we lost in the semi-final. We came back, and the momentum continued.
“It was more or less smooth sailing. FC Ginga really posed the toughest challenge for us… We always knew that it would come down to one of us lifting the trophy.”
And what about the challenge offered by Jaric?
“They are not a bad team,” Warrick said. “But like today, you saw two lines; defence and attack. There was nothing really in the middle of the park, which gave us a lot of room to play. It was sort of what we expected having watched their semi-final.”
Jaric coach Delroy Patterson shared similar sentiments, acknowledging that he has to put extra hours in to address the flaws that popped up in his team’s game on Saturday.
“[Trincity Nationals] came to play to their game plan and it worked for them,” said Patterson. “Unfortunately for us, we couldn’t hit the net at all. That means I have work to do. I have a lot of work to do with the boys and them… The finishing pass in the final third, we need to work on.”
Jaric’s Under-13 coach Bernard Allum may well have his work cut out for him in the interim too, as his Under-13 charges were hammered 6-1 by Trendsetter Hawks in their Under-13 finale.
Trendsetter found their rhythm early and took the lead through the lanky Ryan Radellant in the 17th minute. The lead lasted all of eight minutes, as some miscommunication between Malachi Woodley and his Trendsetter defence led to a facile close-range equalizer for Chris Roberts.
Saturday, as it turned out, wasn’t a day to get in Trendsetter’s way. They duly restored the lead just before the halftime whistle through a well-taken item by their slender attacker, Antonio Sealey.
Sealey, one of Trendsetter’s stars during their run to the 2018 RBYL Under-12 title, was wasteful early in the second half, squandering a couple of easy chances. However, Radellant, whose pace, size and power make him an absolute mismatch at the Under-13 level, took the game by the scruff of the neck in the 42nd minute when he took control of a loose ball in the final third and drilled a low right-footer past goalie Johan Elliott from the edge of the area.
Radellant’s second item seemed to open the floodgates. In the final 10 minutes, Trendsetter stroked the ball around with poise and purpose and added three more items through Zion Harley, Andell Fraser and Shabani Thomas. They were literally queued up in Elliott’s area by the time the final whistle blew!
Trendsetter’s Under-13 coach Dexter Edwards was satisfied that his players rose above the challenges they faced during the season, while also commending the Point Fortin Youth Academy outfit for ‘running them to the ground’ in their semi-final clash.
“I think we had a great season,” Edwards said. “We keep stressing on the importance of training and doing things over and over and you saw it pay off here on this day… So if the other teams don’t want [the silverware], we’re willing to take it.”
Trendsetter very nearly took home all the silverware on offer in 2019 but for Whiteman’s heroics in their Under-15 quarter-final matchup. Still, winning three of the four titles on offer wasn’t bad.
They secured the Under-17 title last month. And, on Saturday, they added the Under-11 crown to their trophy collection after a nail biting final against Pro Series, which required penalties to separate the two fellow northerners.
The 50 minutes of regular time in the Under-11 final had everything—well, everything except goals. The action was end-to-end, the crowd was engaged and, of course, the coaches were animated while the woodwork was struck three times in the tense goalless affair.
In his team’s semi-final encounter against QPCC, Trendsetter coach Wendell Farrier clogged the midfield and stifled his opponent’s creative play, while engineering their own attacks through nifty frontman Jaseem Celestine.
The diminutive Celestine, who was eventually named MVP of the Under-11 division, didn’t have it all his own way on Saturday, as he was well marshalled by the defensive pair of Kaitlyn Darwent and Jasai Theophilus. Still, the skilful youngster almost pulled a rabbit out of the hat in the 13th minute, whipping a left-footed shot just wide of the mark after showing some neat footwork outside the area.
Trendsetter’s solid stopper Ihsan Miller tried to make some magic of his own. Having scored two free kicks in the semi against QPCC, Miller tried to repeat the trick against Pro Series. However, the defender’s wicked long-range effort crashed off opposing goalkeeper Nathaniel Peters’ bar and was eventually cleared to safety.
“This was a beautiful game on both sides—Pro Series came to win, and we came to win,” Farrier said. “The game was well fought. It was in anybody’s hands.”
On the balance of play, Pro Series may feel they should have nicked the game in regular time and a couple of their players said as much as they enjoyed pizza in the covered stands after the game.
“Boy this Trendsetter team could only beat us on penalties,” one youngster remarked. “We was [sic] advantaging them.”
‘Advantage’ might be stretching it but Pro Series did miss some glaring chances in the second half, which they would go on to rue.
In the 31st minute, a retreating Miller made a brilliant last-ditch tackle to deny Jonathan Mason. While, six minutes later, Pro Series attacker Hashim Portillo hit the base of the post after rounding goalkeeper Shamael O’Brian.
And two minutes from time, Portillo—whom Trendsetter founder Anthony ‘Dada’ Wickham singled out as a player to mark after the semi-final round—volleyed over bar from close range, after Zain Griffith put in a lovely cross from the right.
With no goals after regular time, it was down to the dreaded shootout. And there was drama to be had there as well. There were tears from one goalie, lead changes and three missed penalties—none of which required a save.
In the end, Trendsetter emerged 4-3 victors with midfielder Jahseem Pierre calmly slotting a left-footed shot beyond Peters to capture the Under-11 crown.
“First and foremost, we have to thank the Father because without him nothing is possible,” Farrier said. “Hard work really leads to success. Weeks upon weeks we have been practicing certain things and you saw it showed up today; especially in the penalties. We took some beautiful penalties.”
O’Brian was in Superman mode during Trendsetter’s semi-final tussle with QPCC, making a handful of magnificent saves. But in the final shootout, the youngster was reduced to tears after missing his team’s first penalty.
“Yeah Shamael broke down. At this stage, you have to expect that,” Farrier said. “We built him back up. We sent some messages out to him and he gathered himself and the rest of players did it for him. It was a total team effort.”
For coach Kona Hislop and Pro Series, it was almost the perfect end to a wonderful debut RBYL season.
“We were lucky last week but not so much this week. We knew it was going to be a hard game,” Hislop said. “We can’t complain, we had a great season. It’s our first time in the league and to reach the final was a great achievement for us.
“Both teams played some really good football and I think the sportsmanship was good from both teams. As soon as we lost, Trendsetter came over and were consoling us and stuff like that. If we had to lose to anybody, Trendsetter were worthy winners.”
Dada and company targeted a quadruple haul for 2019; but three would have to suffice.
“Once we come here, we come here to compete,” Dada said. “And […] at the end of the day that’s what we’re looking [for], to come out on top.
“[…] We didn’t get the quadruple as we came up one short. But we have to give thanks for that still. Three titles in one season, that’s well done.”
RBYL National Finals Results
(Saturday 6 July)
Trendsetter Hawks 0, Pro Series 0;
*—Trendsetter Hawks won 4-3 on penalties.
Under-11 MVP: Jaseem Celestine (Trendsetter Hawks)
Trendsetter Hawks 6 (Ryan Radellant 17, 42, Antonio Sealey 29, Zion Harley 50, Andell Fraser 57, Shabani Thompson 59), Jaric Titans 1 (Chris Roberts 25);
Under-13 MVP: Jeremiah Niles (Point Fortin Youth Football Academy)
Jaric Titans 0, Trincity Nationals 3 (Siddiq Damree 33, Harrison Parks 44, Ishmael Probherbs 60);
Under-15 MVP: Nicholas Whiteman (Trincity Nationals)