Old problems haunt opening of East football season

Earl Best
Date Published: 

LAST weekend the Central St. George Football League season began with a parade of teams at Constantine Park, Tunapuna. There was none of the shimmer and gleam that have come to be expected of these occasions and, indeed, the parade itself was a rather hurried affair with a disappointingly small number of teams taking part.

At the end of it all Arsenal, a team which had made quite a name for itself in the Sunday Morning Competition in Honeymoon many years ago, ran off with the trophy and the $15 cash prize offered by the League.

One feature that has not disappeared from the ceremonial opening is the collection "for the love of Football". The President, in his opening address made much of the generosity of the League's benefactors — Mr. Tom Gaskin and the C & N Construction Company — through which it was able to offer cash prizes along with all the major trophies at stake in this year's competition.

It was therefore, somewhat surprising to see officials of the League "hustling quarters" (as one youngster put it during the half-time interval. Tapia has already raised the issue of properly enclosed grounds for the League. "Constantine Park ... stands as a living testimony to the blunderings of an administration completely devoid of imagination, originality and foresight. Not a cent has come into the public coffers as a result of its construction and local football leagues must pay rental . . . on the occasions that they decide to take gates, impossible at Constantine Park" (Tapia Vol 3 No. 34).

We are not suggesting that the Leagues must acquire their own grounds — at any rate, not yet — but surely the monies now being expended on rental etc. would go some way towards ensuring that CStGFL has a standing source of income in future. Would it not be feasible — even if somewhat impolitic — to attempt to enclose the ground itself and seek reimbursement from the slow-coach authorities? The ground is certainly getting no better and by the time these latter are ready to get moving only windball cricket and pitch will be playable on the dusty surface.


It was being whispered around the Park on Saturday that Tunapuna has decided not to take part in this year's Village Olympics Competition in protest against the authorities' refusal to respond to the Village Council's proposals for the ground. It is anticipated that this move will have a decidedly catalytic effect; I don't share that optimism since I do believe that the inaction derives not from ill-will but from sheer inefficiency. If you beat a duncy child he wouldn't finish his homework any more quickly!

There was another side to the question of money and sport that was raised — if only in the minds of an esoteric group — by the events of Saturday's opening. The second half of the programme featured a game between the National Youth Team being prepared for an outing in Canada in August and a TECSA squad preparing for the opening of the National Soccer League next month. We were treated to a fine display of skillful ballplay from the youngsters whose coaches deserve ample praise for the job they are doing.

The technical command of the Youth Team's players one remembers the goal-keeper throwing a ball right on to the feet of the left winger standing a couple of yards from the half line and two superb crosses from Michael Grayson who charged down the left flank at high speed and hit the ball back to the edge of the box from 2 yards inside the intersection of touch line and goal line — failed to produce any goals in that first half but substitute Richard Chinapoo's goal and a penalty by Grayson towards the end gave them a well-deserved 2-0 victory.

The TESCA team was disappointing throughout except for a brief period in the second half when the brilliant running of substitute Errol Passey almost produced a couple of goals for them. Their lackluster performance was not entirely due to the obvious technical superiority of the opposition for TECSA fielded a 'pick-up side'.

Junior Mieres, (Under-the-shop), Fitzroy "Jack" Valentine (Arsenal/Phoenix/Maple), Selwyn Williams (Arsenal/Phoenix/Maple), Christopher "Kissin" Pierre (Blackpool and Colts), his brother Stephen "Darkhorse" Pierre (Blackpool) and Hilton Moore (Colts) all donned the blue and white TESCA jerseys for the first time.


Valentine, said to be among the best linkmen in the country on his day, was clearly a mad bull among chickie-chongs as all the other TECSA forwards seemed intent on going forward as early and as quickly as possible while he was striving to dish out square pass after square pass after square pass in an effort to build an attack. Only his former team-mate Williams seemed to be on the same wave-length at any given moment.

What is really surprising is that this bunch has been working together for at least a month now. Admittedly there has been some disappointment with national player Godfrey Harris failing to join the squad as promised. The story is that a group of concerned Tunapuna businessmen decided that TECSA as "Tunapuna's representative" in the NSL should field the best possible selection of Tunapuna players. With this in mind they agreed to offer incentives to players who had "made it in the big League" (POSFL). The attractive offer of semi-professionalism — free gear, cash rewards per goal, cash rewards per match won or drawn, some kind of insurance policy — won over most of those wooed and the general feeling was that once Harris agreed to play everyone else would.


Harris' story is that confronted by his comrades, fans and would-be sponsors and asked to state whether or not he would play he acquiesced, "naturally". But he was already committed to playing with Maple and later rescinded his agreement. It is easy to see the difference that his absence makes. If he can be persuaded to change his mind — which now seems very unlikely — he can bring to the TECSA front-line the kind of cool, the kind of temperance it so desperately needs. If not the TECSA administration will be well-advised to get the squad as many practice runs as possible in order to weld into some kind of team the present incoherent bunch.

But one wonders if that method of team-building is in the best interests of the community. One wonders too whether it does not defeat the purpose of the NSL. Let us assume for the sake of the argument that TECSA is last in the NSL and Arsenal wins the CStGFL. What then happens to "Tunapuna's representative" (as I assume they will be termed) in the Champion of Champions Competition? Do they reclaim their two former members and recruit the rest of the TECSA "stars" so as to give them a fighting chance to make it into the NSL? Or do they opt for hitting the big time with their depleted small-time team?

They may conceivably also decide to reclaim just their two former players and face the music with their original team. But will reintegration be a simple happy process for the duo? Will it not adversely affect the team's performance? Hopefully, it won't but why chance it? Shouldn't we be thinking first of ensuring that each of Tunapuna's teams and therefore the Tunapuna League fields its best eleven throughout the season? Is that not the best way of ensuring that the district will always be wel represented in the NSL?

A league is only as strong as its weakest team. It will perhaps be argued that getting into the NSL is a considerably more difficult task than staying there. We must consequently strive to ensure that the bird in our hands is not lost as we seek to capture those in the bush. TECSA, it will be admitted is not our best club team precisely because it is not a club team. And the objections of the POSFL testify to the fact the the NSL is designed to allow the best club teams in the country to show off their talents. They want, it seems, to be guaranteed a couple of places in the League.

That is obviously an unreasonable position to take, based as it is on the assumption that POSFL will always continue to be the "big League" in the sense that it is thence that most of the talented players eventually move.

When the communities start organising in the way I see as inevitable, viz strengthening themselves at the club level this migration will just as inevitably come to an end and the POSFL hegemony will be broken. Ask Eddie Hart — there's a glorious morning coming for National Football.