Terminix La Horquetta Rangers FC’s official start to their Ascension Invitational season against Matura ReUnited on Saturday at the La Horquetta Recreational Ground was well worth the wait for the eastern community. For the team’s players, bench, backroom staff, owners and fans alike, it may have been an evening where superlatives ran out.
The Rangers swiftly cut down their first competitive opponent since they began training seven months ago, eventually winning 10-2. It was a first impression bound to last in the community they now call home since moving from St Ann’s, where they played for 40 years.
After their first 90 minutes of play, Rangers looks a contender for one of the top places in the Ascension Invitational.
But according to Richard Ferguson, Rangers managing director, the team is made for more than just winning titles; they are meant to stand as an example to the rest of the country.
“The concept is if we can do it, why you can’t do it?” Ferguson said. “We are trying to change the way football is run and the way it works. We’re trying to get football to be financially stable so we can generate our own funds, generate our own crowds, sell the TV rights, make money so we can pay the players, pay the coaches and be a stable entity.
“Currently, football in Trinidad and Tobago revolves around begging for money, and we don’t like to beg for money.”
For Matura ReUnited, it was a matter of wrong place, wrong time.
Early in the match, cheekily and somewhat ominously for the Matura team, eager Rangers fans began speculating about a possible cricket score.
By the end of the first half, Rangers led 5-1. If this were the gentleman’s game, the hosts could be forgiven for declaring early. Instead, they came back out as if the first 45 minutes never happened.
Ferguson, sat in the facility’s well-outfitted VIP lounge, holding court with a host of T&T football’s cognoscenti while loudly and proudly counting goals.
About 700 residents, supporters and curious onlookers converged on the facility, among them Ascension joint top-scorer Devon ‘Droggy’ Jorsling and Defence Force captain Jerwyn Balthazar. Many of the facility’s neighbors stood on their porches taking in the action. There were 23 police officers along with 15 security guards at the facility.
Reggae artiste Isasha performed a medley of his hits. He said he hoped that the underlying message of his music added to the significance of the moment.
“As a man from LH I know how it was to how it reach now. I rate this and support it 100. It’s been a while the community hasn’t gotten anything like this,” he said. “This is going to bring back phase to phase love. [Right now] people from one phase can’t walk in [other phases]. This going and bring back that love where a man could come Phase 2 and enjoy the football and not [have to worry on his way back home].”
Akeem ‘Preedy’ Chance, songwriter and soca artiste, said he was happy to see local business invest in the football and echoed Isasha’s sentiments about the newly refurbished grounds:
“Having a structure like this in the community is like having a beacon of hope. I went to school with some of the players on the field and I always knew they were talented footballers, so seeing them now under lights is just rewards for their talent.”
Ferguson defended the party atmosphere at the match: “You went a Pro League match last year? It had more substitutes than supporters.”
“You have to tailor the product to suit the market,” he explained. “In England, the crowd will support you for years whether you win or lose. In Trinidad and Tobago, the product must be attached to culture; a Trini party atmosphere is what will bring out our fans.”
One attendee said it was the first time she had come to watch a football match at the grounds since she has been living in the area. She, like many others, was impressed with its current iteration and promised to return.
Others applauded at the final whistle, and they looked certain to return. It remains to be seen, however, if the home team can reach the heights achieved in their season debut in La Horquetta.
After the final whistle, Ferguson said: “Trinidad has natural talent, but we have to furnish it and harness it so you don’t want these guys wondering where their pay cheque is coming from. […] We have been paying these players since January and they have been practicing hard and this just goes to show if a team of Trinbagonians practice for 7 months this is how they could perform.
“All the money generated today is going back into the league and everything is going back into the community to help T&T football rise from the ashes.”