RBNYFL 24: Evolution emerge, Pro Series soar and City hold off Union Hall


Evolution Football Club, just two years after their formation, are on the brink of history in domestic youth football—after the Central Zone runners-up capped an unlikely turnaround to edge Onboard AIA to the Trinidad Under-20 title of the 2024 Republic Bank National Youth Football League (RBNYFL).

Evolution, coached by Husani Thomas, rode their luck at times. But they were clinical from the penalty spot, as they defeated AIA by four kicks to one after a goalless 90-minute affair at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella.

Evolution FC coach Kern Cupid (far left) sprints to join the celebration after his team’s 4-1 penalty shootout win over AIA in the RNYFL Trinidad U-20 final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“We had a lot of strong challenges in the quarters and the semis,” Evolution coach and co-director Kern Cupid told Wired868. “And to have the experience of playing in the final, and to come through it… We have exceeded all our expectations, based on our short and long term goals!”

Tobago’s Eagles FC stand in their way now, with the national youth title up for grabs on Saturday 1 June at the UTT O’Meara Campus in Arima.


No Central Zone outfit, at least none that the RBNYFL organisers can remember, have ever lifted a national title in the 29-year history of the competition.

In fact, there were more than a few new names in Saturday’s showcase event, although some were arguably cosmetic changes.

City FC attacker Reagan Rowe flies the flag for his team after their success in the RBNYFL U-14 Trinidad final against Union Hall Utd at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

City FC won Trinidad Under-14 bragging rights in the RBNYFL for the first time, thanks to a thrilling 2-1 triumph over Union Hall United. But, of course, City remain in heart and soul—although no longer in constitution—the football academy of the Queen’s Park Cricket Club, which has existed in the local football arena since 1967.

While, in the Under-16 Division, Pro Series took the honours with a 3-0 win over Beatnix Sports Club.

Last year, either Pro Series and QPCC featured in three of the RBNYFL’s four Trinidad finals with the former outfit scooping up two trophies to boot.

On the weekend, the west Port of Spain teams were again considerable opponents in the younger age group. But City FC certainly did not have it their own way in the Under-14 final.

Union Hall Utd midfielder Sherkeel Campbell (right) dribbles City FC captain Lucas Shaw in the opposing penalty area during RNYFL Trinidad U-14 final action at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“I would give City [that they had the better of] the first half, although we took the lead,” said Union Hall head coach Dexter Cyrus. “But it was all Union Hall after [City] equalised—they scored a winner against the run of play. We ended the game tremendously strong.

“[…] I cannot fault my players, seeing how they ended the game. It wasn’t meant to be.”

Lady Luck seemed to have been in Union Hall colours after the first 40 minutes, as the southern outfit went ahead just before the interval through talented flanker Jeduthun Emptage.

Union Hall Utd flanker Jeduthun Emptage (left) sizes up a City FC defender during RNYFL Trinidad U-14 final action at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

The feeling in the Union Hall dressing room was: imagine, if we are ahead without being at our best, what we could do once we click in the second half?

In the other dressing room, City head coach Kahlil Mathura decided that he had to change tactics.

“In the first half, I felt we deserved to go up and we actually went down,” said Mathura. “That [goal] forced us to refocus. We weren’t really breaking down their backline as well as we could.”

City FC attacker Reagan Rowe (right) tries to find a way past Union Hall Utd defender Aden Montano during RNYFL Trinidad U-14 final action at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

So, rather than playing on the break through talented attackers Jeremai Nanton and Reagan Rowe—both members of the current national under-14 pool—Mathura ordered his players to be more collective, with full backs instructed to push forward to create overloads.

“Creating early one v one opportunities worked well for us during the season, but it did not work on them,” said Mathura. “Our forwards were too isolated in the first half, so we tried to go with numbers and attack as a group. We stopped being as direct as we were.”

Football is a funny old game, though. City were the better team in the first half but trailed. In the second half, Union Hall were superior—and lost!

Union Hall Utd midfielder and captain Samuel Balfour (centre) runs at the City FC defence during RNYFL Trinidad U-14 final action at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Six minutes after the resumption, Union Hall captain and talented midfielder Samuel Balfour danced around opposing skipper Lucas Shaw but clipped the top of the bar with his effort.

Then, it took a tremendous lunging tackle from Shaw to deny Emptage, who looked to have broken clear of the City defence off a long ball.

But, out of nothing, City were level. Nanton’s squared pass at the edge of the opposing area ought to have been picked off by either Union Hall midfielder Chike Cupid or defender Jayden Duncan.

City FC substitute Mason Joel celebrates his team’s equalising goal during their clash with Union Hall Utd in the RNYFL Trinidad U-14 final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Unfortunately, both players thought it was the other’s responsibility and, sensing the opportunity, Mason Joel swung his right boot at the ball, which arched into the air over Union Hall goalkeeper Samuel Hosein before dipping into the far corner.

It was a superb strike—whether Joel could do that again given a further 10 tries, would be another thing altogether.

Cyrus’ young troops only improved after that, with Sherkeel Campbell and Balfour showing real promise in central midfield. Yet, somehow, Union Hall went further behind.

City FC attacker Jeremai Nanton (right) tries to wriggle free from Union Hall Utd players Ailan Ali (#24) and Samuel Balfour during RNYFL Trinidad U-14 final action at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

City had more possession in the Trinidad final, yet the better goal scoring opportunities were being created at the other end.

For anyone who has seen young Nanton at work, it is considerably unlikely that any defence would keep him quiet for an entire match. And, in the 72nd minute, the winger twisted opposing full back Gabriel Alexis into knots before forcing a save from Hosein.

From the resulting corner kick, midfielder Brandon Chin Sang hit home from a loose ball to give City the lead.

City FC midfielder Brandon Chin Sang (left) prepares to fire home in a crowded penalty area during RNYFL Trinidad U-14 final action against Union Hall Utd at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

The northerners might have been out of sight in the 73rd minute, as Nanton was sent clear through the opposing defence only for Hosein to make a crucial save to keep Union Hall in the game.

Between the City FC uprights, goalkeeper Christian Telfer must have said hold my (non-alcoholic) beer.

As Union Hall players poured forward in search of the equaliser they arguably deserved at that stage, Telfer put on his cape. There were two minutes left when Balfour pierced the opposing defence and blasted at goal, only to see his shot turned into the side netting.

City FC goalkeeper Christian Telfer (foreground) gets ready as Union Hall Utd midfielder Samuel Balfour fires at goal during RNYFL Trinidad U-14 final action at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

But Telfer’s best moment came a minute later, as Campbell matched his skill with composure to dance around three opposing defenders in the City penalty area.

Somehow, from close range, Telfer turned his effort around the upright.

There was still time on the clock and a corner kick to take, but Union Hall players slumped to the ground in disbelief. They seemed to know that there would be no way around Telfer this weekend.

City FC goalkeeper Christian Telfer celebrates after an impressive individual showing against Union Hall Utd in the RNYFL Trinidad U-14 final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“I think we got three or maybe four clear scoring chances in the last 25 minutes,” said Cyrus. “The last save that the City goalkeeper made was nothing short of miraculous.”

Mathura felt City were deserving winners. But he conceded that the game could have just as easily gone the other way.

“We had more of the ball and a little more structure to what we were doing,” said Mathura. “But a team doesn’t get to two finals without deserving to be there and Union Hall were difficult opponents. They were big and athletic and they have some talented wingers.

City FC players celebrate with the Trinidad U-14 RBNYFL trophy, after their 2-1 win over Union Hall Utd at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“It could have been tied up very easily at the end but for some great saves. It could have gone either way but I do feel we deserved to win.”

The Under-16 final lacked the same tension as the younger age group, although Pro Series probably won’t apologise for that.

Beatnix Sports Club, a Five Rivers-based team which ended up competing in central Trinidad due to the high number of clubs in the east, met a team that arguably possessed too much know-how and fizz.

Pro Series players celebrate a goal from forward Jonathan Mason (second from left) during their clash with Beatnix SC in the RNYFL Trinidad U-16 final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Coach Quinlal O’Brien’s boys were not overrun. And the likes of attacker Jah Marley Ellis and the central defensive pairing of captain Khalid Jones and Essien Thomas did enough to catch the eye.

Yet, Pro Series’ midfield trio of Troy Bruno, Jalen Hislop and Alejandro Harper were so dominant—ably supported by the twin towers of Daquan Jackman and Tristan Jackman (no relation)—that Beatnix forward Alejandro Watterfield barely caught sight of opposing goalkeeper Shameal O’Brian beyond their handshakes at kickoff.

It took an error in judgment to give the west Port of Spain team the lead in the 38th minute, as Beatnix left back Chad Nicholas did not appear sufficiently briefed about opposing striker Jonathan Mason’s speed when he tried to screen a ball out of play.

Pro Series forward Jonathan Mason runs at the Beatnix SC defence during RNYFL Trinidad U-16 final action at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Mason, a National Under-17 forward, surprised the defender and crossed for Hashim Portillo to bundle home the opener.

The Fatima College student ran on to a long ball from Daquan Jackman to convert the second goal, despite a desperate late lunge from Thomas. And Harper, another National Under-17 player, got their third item in the 70th minute with a fine headed finish off a Jaseem Celestine corner kick.

The Beatnix coach congratulated Pro Series on their third Trinidad trophy in the RBNYFL in two years.

Pro Series flanker Jaeden Samuel (left) tries to hold off Beatnix SC left back Chad Nicholas during RNYFL Trinidad U-16 final action at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“We played an experienced team—they had the core of their players who won the Under-15 title last year,” said O’Brien, who described the chemistry between the Pro Series midfield and defence as awesome. “Credit to their coach who is very experienced. This is my first final and my first under-16 team.

“The boys were a bit shy as it was the first time playing at this level for the majority of them. It took them a while to get their nerves out and by then we were already two goals down. But they came and put their best foot forward and I was proud of them.”

Beatnix SC defender Essien Thomas prepares to punt the ball upfield during their RNYFL Trinidad U-16 final contest with Pro Series at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

Pro Series coach Kona Hislop insisted the Trinidad final was not as easy as it looked, as his boys had to be patient and watchful against the likes of Ellis and midfielders Kanye Eastman and Kanye Glasgow.

“It was not our best performance for the season but it was a tough game and finals are always hard to play in,” said Hislop. “We did what we had to do and we took our chances. I think we kept the ball well and were patient in our build-up and used the wings well.

“[Beatnix] were tough to break down [but] we stayed patient, we didn’t lose our heads and […] eventually we got the breakthrough.”

Pro Series midfielder Hashim Portillo (right) beats Beatnix SC goalkeeper Josiah Superville for the opening goal during RNYFL Trinidad U-16 final action at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

The RBNYL did not hold a national final last year. So Pro Series, who played their first competitive football match in 2019, will be seeking their first Trinidad and Tobago domestic title on Saturday, when they face the Ball Blasters Youth Academy in O’Meara.

Ball Blasters, incidentally, are seeking two trophies as they are also Tobago Under-14 champs.

But Evolution are undoubtedly the Cinderella story of the 2024 RBNYFL competition.

Evolution FC players take on AIA in a penalty shootout during the RNYFL Trinidad U-20 final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“After three rounds of group stage football, we were seventh—second to last in the Central standings,” said Cupid, who formed Evolution in 2021 with fellow director and coach Husani Thomas. “We had a meeting with our players, giving them our expectations of them and the belief that they could do it.

“We put in extra sessions. And we began to climb the table, one game at a time…”

AIA, formed 15 months ago by coach Adrian Romain, were another surprise package in the final. Both teams were built around defensive structure and perspiration, with a dash of quality on top.

AIA forward Theo Crovador (foreground) tries to way past an Evolution FC defender during the RNYFL Trinidad U-20 final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

On Saturday, they cancelled each other out—although Evolution goalkeeper Anton Williams was required to make a couple vital saves from AIA flankers Isiah Isaac and captain Theo Crovador.

“We didn’t put away our chances and that was it,” said Romain, who credited Evolution for their discipline in defence. “Defensively, we were very sound but we didn’t take our chances in front of goal.”

Cupid conceded that his boys, who lost midfielder Jurel La Touche to a second yellow card in second half stoppage time, endured “massive pressure” at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on Saturday.

Evolution FC midfielder Kaedon Thomas-Robertson (left) fouls AIA attacker Isiah Isaac during the RNYFL Trinidad U-20 final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

“We had a few chances that we didn’t take, but for the remainder of the game we had to weather the hurricane,” said Cupid.

AIA first two kickers, Khidr Atiba and Jahdel Chase-Charles, both failed to hit the target though. And captain Joshua Demas, left back Zayn Colthrust, defender Miqel Samuel and, finally, Kirziah Mayers showed nerves of steel from the spot to put Evolution within touching distance of history.

“I don’t think I can remember a Central team ever reaching a [RBNYFL] final, let alone winning one,” said Cupid. “Our boys have defied all odds. Give thanks to the man above for that.”

The Evolution FC team celebrate after edging AIA to the RBNYFL Trinidad U-20 trophy at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 March 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

The stakes will be higher still on Saturday.

(Under-14 squads)

City FC (4-3-3): 1.Christian Telfer (GK); 5.Jaren Chase, 3.Liam Hosein, 11.Lucas Shaw (captain), 4.Austin Wharton-Lake; 9.Matthew Lee Young, 31.Christian Parks, 21.Brandon Chin Sang; 46.Jeremai Nanton, 16.Jude Correia, 10.Reagan Rowe.

Substitutes: 0.Malachai Leach (GK), 2.Adam Hospedales, 6.Mason Joel, 7.Shiva Joseph Ramlal, 13.Sean Rostant, 24.Elliot Nieves, 26.Zaidyn Camps.

Coach: Kahlil Mathura

Union Hall Utd (4-3-3): 007.Samuel Hosein (GK); 7.Josiah Huggins, 6.Jayden Duncan, 51.Aden Montano, 55.Gabriel Alexis; 20.Chike Cupid, 89.Sherkeel Campbell, 99.Samuel Balfour (captain); 87.Jeduthun Emptage, 13.Djoshua Cyrus, 24.Ailan Ali.

Substitutes: 23.Elano Figaro, 25.Tevin Furlong, 66.Aden George, 82.Christian Romain, 80.Kaylon Robley, 89.Roman Tardieu, 92.Ricardo Francis, 97.Jalon Cottle.

Coach: Dexter Cyrus

City FC players pose before kickoff against Union Hall Utd in the RBNYFL U-14 Trinidad final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

(Under-16 squads)

Pro Series (4-3-3): 00.Shameal O’Brian (GK); 23.Zain Griffith, 24.Tristan Jackman, 21.Daquan Jackman (captain), 37.Ezekiel Bernard; 57.Troy Bruno, 5.Jalen Hislop, 16.Alejandro Harper; 84.Jaeden Samuel, 11.Jake Barclay, 13.Jaseem Celestine.

Substitutes: 1.Jayden Lucas (GK), 8.Preston Watkins, 9.Jonathan Mason, 20.Blaine Popplewell, 31.Rojinio Garcia, 35.Xavier Caruth, 40.Neomiah Thompson, 45.Hashim Portillo, 46.Jonathan Ferreira, 50.Jonathan Darwent.

Coach: Kona Hislop

Beatnix SC (4-3-3): 1.Josiah Superville (GK); 18.Kidane Nieves, 5.Khalid Jones (captain), 6.Essien Thomas, 8.Chad Nicholas; 19.Kanye Glasgow, 7.Mikai Boney, 10.Kanye Eastman; 11.Jah Marley Ellis, 20.Alejandro Watterfield, 21.Danniel Phillip.

Substitutes: 3.Josiah McKie, 4.Jasim Rahaman, 12.Benjamin Orosco, 13.Giovanni Marin, 14.Josiah Thomas, 15.Kibwe Abosi, 16.Caidon Crawford.

Coach: Quinlal O’Brien

Pro Series pose before kickoff against Beatnix SC in the RBNYFL U-16 Trinidad final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

(Under-20 squads)

Evolution FC (4-2-3-1): 25.Anton Williams (GK); 23.Kermannuel Christopher (26.Malachi Duncan 46), 5.Joshua Demas (captain), 4.Miqel Samuel, 11.Zayn Colthrust; 16.Jurel La Touche, 14.Jaeden Thomas-Robertson, 10.Ethan Trotman (13.Chad McClean 46), 35.Kai Thomas-Robertson (12.Yasin Ali 70), 7.Josiah Hypolite; 36.Judah Chinapoo (52.Kirziah Mayers 70).

Unused substitutes: 3.Terriq Thomas, 15.Nashawn Rocky, 18.Jordan Thorne, 22.Israel James, 39.Rafieal Boatswain.

Coach: Husani Thomas

AIA (4-2-3-1): 1.Brandon Dalrymple (GK); 18.Kadedon Marcelle, 4.Jaheishua Ferguson, 5.Dejon Lezama, 12.Hakim Lorde; 6.Khidr Atiba, 3.Khaden Caraby; 19.Isiah Isaac (10.Darlon Sankar 80), 15.Malachi Woodley (11.Areelio Niles 78), 7.Theo Crovador (captain); 9.Jean-Marc Thomas (8.Jahdel Chase-Charles 78).

Unused substitutes: 2.Marlon Kelly-Moore, 14.Seon Punnette, 16.Tariq Abdulla, 17.Makaay Julien, 22.Mikel Seelal, 23.Kristian Homer.

Coach: Adrian Romain

Evolution FC goalkeeper Anton Williams turned in a man of the match display as the Central Zone team edged AIA in the RBNYFL Trinidad U-20 final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

RBNYFL Trinidad Finals

Saturday 25 May

(Boys Under-14)

Union Hall Utd 1 (Jeduthun Emptage 40+1), City FC 2 (Mason Joel 52, Brandon Chin Sang 72) at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;

(Boys Under-16)

Pro Series 3 (Hashim Portillo 38, Jonathan Mason 50, Alejandro Harper 70), Beatnix SC 0 at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;

(Boys Under-20)

Evolution FC 0, AIA 0 at Mannie Ramjohn Stadium;

*–Evolution won 4-1 via kicks from the penalty mark

City FC goalkeeper Christian Telfer (centre) is congratulated by teammates after his superb showing against Union Hall Utd in the RBNYFL Trinidad U-14 final at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium on 25 May 2024.
Photo: RBNYFL/ 12 Media Productions

RBNYFL National Finals

(1 June)

City FC vs Ball Blasters YA, Boys Under-14 final, 10am, UTT O’Meara;

Pro Series vs Ball Blasters YA, Boys Under-16 final, 12pm, UTT O’Meara;

Evolution FC vs Eagles FC, Boys Under-20 final, 2pm, UTT O’Meara.

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