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Quarry Stars, Connection in Pro League opener

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Kingk:
Taken from the Trinidad Express

THE two most successful club teams of last season meet today as the 2005 Trinidad and Tobago professional football competition kicks off with two matches. Defending League champions National Quarries North East Stars face their first test of the season when tackling Vibe Ct 105 W. Connection , winners of both the T&T Pro Bowl and the First Citizens Cup.

The local heavyweights clash from 4 p.m. at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella, while today's other match sees former champions CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh meeting the always competitive Caledonia AIA/Fire in another 4 p.m. match at the Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.

This year's competition kicks off minus Starworld Strikers who are out of the League, having experienced financial difficulties since last season. Starworld, fourth last season, have lost Everald 'Gally' Cummings and Michael Grayson from their coaching staff, while some of their top players have also moved onto other clubs. Coming into the league this year are United Petrotrin who returns to top flight competition after competing in the National Super League last season. They are on a first round bye.

At National Quarries N/E Stars, owner Darryl Mahabir is giving his players the opportunity to show their worth. Mababir has recruited just three players: outstanding St Vincent & the Grenadines goalkeeper Melvin Andrews; Brent Antoine (Caledonia AIA/Fire ) and former Jabloteh super-sub Fabien Garcia, a native Sangre Grande player, who is returning to play for his village team. Mahabir has held off on bring in further reinforcements to prove a point - that Stars were not a one-man team when their first Pro League title in 2004.

"Several of the other teams choose to believe that Charles Pollard was the backbone of our team," Mahabir says. " Now that he is gone, they feel that we will fold. I want to prove that this is not a team of one man, but a team of many men. I have given my players the chance to prove themselves."

Mahabir will look closely at the experiment and strengthen his team if required as the season goes along. Among Stars' big ambitions this season is competing for the Caribbean Champions Cup for the first time in their history. But most of all, Mahabir hopes his footballers will give him another competitive season.

"Last year my big ambition was to get to the top. Now, that we have reached there, we will be the team everyone wants to beat. The bottom line, is that I want to be competitive again," Mabaror said.

One of the teams, who will surely looking to beat the Stars are Vibe CT 105 W. Connection, who won the most silverware last season. Connection have been strengthened by the returns of Brazilians Gefferson Da Silva Goulart and Ronaldo Viana, who had a stint in Europe last season with F.C. Zelenik of Bosnia.

Connection also have two other Brazilians, including T&T national team prospect Jose Luis Seabra, as well as f ormer Under-20 footballers such as Gorian Highley, Errol Charles ( Starworld Strikers ), Shane Calderon, Andre Pacheco and Clayton Hector , who have all moved up to the senior squad. Connection have been in pre-season training since January and have beaten Caledonia AIA/Fire (2-0), National Super League champs Joe Public (4-0), Caroni (5-0 & 3-0); and Champion of Champions winner Rotiv Couva Players (7-0) before being edged 1-0 by American Club the New York/New Jersey Metrostars of the United States in a recent friendly match.

Former champions CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh recently looked quite good when losing 3-2 to the Metrostars in another friendly. In addition to acquiring Guyanese Pollard for North East Stars, Jabloteh have also hired Starworld Striker head-coach Michael Grayson, who has brought along Starworld 's prolific Jamaican striker Nicholas Addlery. Jabloteh have also retained past and present Trinidad and Tobago national players such Angus Eve, Trent Noel, Keyeno Thomas, Nigel Daniel, and Aurtis Whitley (Otis Seraton) among others.

They meet a Caledonia AIA team that is hoping to regain its relationship with the Caledonia community. Caledonia AIA/Fire has bulked up as well by bringing in a couple of big name players. National midfielder Kerwin Jemmott will be a good addition if he stay around and is determined to play good football throughout the season. They have also acquired two of their former players, St Lucian Titus "Titi" Elva , who returns from a few seasons with Connection, and former national midfielder Stokley Mason. Jamaal Shabazz remains in charge of the coaching and he will be assisted by former players Jerry Moe and Shawn James.

TODAY'S T&T PRO

LEAGUE FIXTURES:

CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh v Caledonia AIA/Fire, 4 p.m. Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella.

Vibe CT 105 W. Connection v National Quarries N/E Stars, 4 p.m. Ato Boldon Stadium, Couva.

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