HUNDREDS of recreation-starved Laventillians ringed a miniature football field over the weekend to cheer the opening of the only football league in the area.
For years residents in the area have been screaming for a proper playing field. And for years youngsters have had to kick ball in the road. Nothing was forthcoming from the authorities, so the residents took matters in their own hands.
Just off Erica Street there is a small piece of land which was the site of an abandoned play-ground. Arguing that the rusted, decaying equipment was a hazard to children in the area who never played there anyway — young boys in the district cleared the land of the rubbish and laid down a small football field.
It took a lot of hard work and begging, but by last weekend the ground was neatly marked out, complete with metal goal-posts and nets.
To ensure that as many youngsters as possible got a fair share of the use of the limited playing space a seven-a-side football league was formed.
Rules were devised to meet the particular needs for the area: for instance teams are allowed to make three substitutions in a 50-minute match. Thus in every game 10 players from each block can be sure of "getting a run".
Referees from each match come from the teams themselves. Argued the founders of the League "it is no use us just sitting and saying that the fellers will thief. We are either men or little boys. If we are men we can referee games between two teams without bias."
The League has drawn the participation of some of the best players in the area — some of whom have played at the level of the national competitions.
The field is not the greatest football field in the world. There is not a blade of grass and a fall on the rough playing surface is almost bound to result in at least minor bruises; a concrete canal runs along the length of one of the sides of the field so an onrushing player always has to be on the look-out when the ball is being played on that side of the field.
However when Highlanders' captain, Bertie Marshall ran on the field to kick off the ball one would have thought that it was the opening of the football competition in the Munich Olympics.
And, indeed, the hopes of the crowd were justified. The first game — Paramounts versus The Rest — produced an exciting, fast moving brand of football that ended with The Rest winning by a four-three margin.
Sunday, however, was the big day. Six matches were played — three in the morning, beginning at nine o'clock and three in the afternoon beginning at three o'clock. At both morning and evening sessions, the people were there to shout support for their teams.
All the characters were there — Bertie, himself, "Fatman" Slater, coaching loudly and angrily on the sidelines, Keith Smith continuously walking from one end of the football field to the other, the tailor-boys section, Carlo, Mel, Andy, Kenny, Vomit, Throw-Up, Cocotte, everybody — young and old, men and women gald for this diversion in the barrenness that is life in Success Village, Laventille.
Came the match of the day and Smee International defeated Furness one goal to nothing in a match that was marked by tremendous power-kicking from Cecil Phillips and steady saving from Donald Bain of Furness.
At half-time the teams were dead-locked, but Furness, playing without a real pointer were hard pressed by the surging Smee forward line. Furness' defence, particularly Leslie "See-wah-wah" Barton and Bain in goal balked Smee's goal-scoring attempts until the 45th minute when Smee was awarded a free-kick about eight yards from the goal-post.
As was expected, Cecil took the kick, but conscious of his tremendous power-shot the Furness defence forgot Elie Paul lurking in the left-wing position. From Cecil the ball came to Elie who banged it into the net. That mistake cost Furness the game.
The prize trophy of the competition is a magnificient shield — the "Oliver Edmund Memorial Trophy" donated by Victor Forgenie, manager of the nearby lime-stone factory.
Edmund crashed to his death while flying an aeroplane over the Laventille hills a few weeks ago and among the teams battling for this trophy is "Sergeants" who have adopted Edmund's nick-name not so much out of capriche but because the whole team is made up of his close friends.