Big 5: SSFL confirms Signal Hill’s promotion ahead of Blanchisseuse; ignores assault claims


Signal Hill Secondary will line up among the top schoolboy teams of the country in the 2024 Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premier Division competition, which kicks off in September.

And Blanchisseuse Secondary will have to start their own 2024 campaign in the North Zone Championship Division without star forward Roger Kirk and his cousin Zakiyus Kirk, who is a central defender.

Signal Hill Secondary players pose before kickoff against Moruga Secondary in SSFL Big Five action at Tompierre Trace, Moruga on 16 February 2024.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

Both decisions were confirmed by the SSFL Disciplinary Committee on Tuesday afternoon. And the rulings are expected to bring the 2023 SSFL season to a belated close—once there is no appeal from Blanchisseuse.

Blanchisseuse, the North Championship winners, needed only a draw against Signal Hill in Tobago on 8 March to qualify for the Premier Division for the first time. However, reduced to 10 players after a red card to Roger Kirk, they conceded twice in second half stoppage time in an eventual 2-1 loss.


The contest never came to a natural conclusion, as referee Keon Yorke blew off the affair early after Blanchisseuse players confronted their opponents while fans stormed the field.

Blanchisseuse principal Hashim Johnson cited the premature end to the fixture as well as perceived biased decisions by the Tobagonian referee as grounds for a rematch.

Blanchisseuse Secondary captain Abraham Kirk (right) runs at the Moruga Secondary defence during SSFL Big 5 action in Blanchisseuse on 20 February 2024.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

However, the Disciplinary Committee, chaired by Essiel Seecharan, noted Law 7 of the game, which states: an abandoned match is replayed unless the competition rules or organisers determine otherwise.

The Committee declared that video footage showed evidence of Blanchisseuse “delaying the restart of play” and displaying “violent conduct” by their players crossing into the opposing half of the field towards the Signal Hill team, before the match could restart.

“These two points are exactly why the results stand, even though it was indicated by the referee the match was abandoned due to threats being made by the Blanchisseuse Secondary School supporters,” stated the final report.

Notably, the Disciplinary Committee did not make any pronouncement on Signal Hill’s claim that Blanchisseuse captain Abraham Kirk physically assaulted their team manager and PE teacher Bronson Roberts.

Blanchisseuse Secondary forward Roger Kirk (second from right) celebrates an early item against Moruga Secondary during SSFL Big 5 action in Blanchisseuse on 20 February 2024.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

Abraham Kirk is Zakiyus’ elder brother.

There was no ruling either on match commissioner Kurt Jack’s claim that Roger Kirk assaulted fourth official Merville Wallace after the final whistle.


Wired868 was told, unofficially, that neither of the two claims of assault were addressed since they were not formally brought before the Disciplinary Committee.

Signal Hill principal Arianne Garcia-D’Abreau, in a letter to the SSFL, urged the school football officials to address the claims of assault along with threats made to her team captain Imanhi Forbes.

“While I understand the plethora of emotions as a result of such a critical game for both teams, I do believe that this type of behaviour is totally unacceptable and unbecoming,” said the Signal Hill principal. “If this behaviour is allowed to continue, it will bring the League into disrepute.”

However, the SSFL body did not even mention any of those three complaints.

The Disciplinary Committee did lament its supposed inability to give stiffer penalties to Roger and Zakiyus Kirk for their red cards, though. (The suspensions to Roger and Zakiyus Kirk are irrespective of what school they line up for in September.)

Blanchisseuse Secondary defender Zakiyus Kirk.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

“If schools are [unable] to follow the rules given, tougher sanctions must be given based on our punishment matrix,” stated the Seecharan-led committee.

The Disciplinary Committee also suggested that neutral referees be used for games like Signal Hill’s clash with Blanchisseuse, so as to ward off claims of bias.

In this case, the SSFL considers Tobago as a zone and not an island. Therefore, a neutral referee in a match involving a North Zone school would be one from Central, South or East—as opposed to hiring a referee that is not associated with either island.

Referee Keon Yorke shows the red card to Made In La Brea player J’barie Wells during their NLCL U-19 Community Cup quarterfinal clash with World Class Soccer Clinic at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 5 February 2023.
Photo: Daniel Prentice/ Wired868

“[Neutral referees] can also protect not only the players but also the referee,” stated the Disciplinary Committee, “so he or she isn’t [accused of being] partial towards any team.

“We have also done this in the past and it is very much something we have to revisit moving forward.”

The 16 schools who will compete in the 2024 SSFL Premier Division competition are: Fatima College (defending champions), Arima North Secondary, East Mucurapo Secondary, Malick Secondary, Miracle Ministries Pentecostal High School, Naparima College, Presentation College (San Fernando), Queen’s Royal College, San Juan North Secondary, Signal Hill Secondary, Speyside High Secondary, St Anthony’s College, St Augustine Secondary, St Benedict’s College, St Mary’s College, and Trinity College East.

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About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd is the managing director and chief editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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