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CENTRAL FC captain Leston Paul believes that the “Sharks” have what it takes to defend the First Citizens Cup when they tackle North East Stars in the Final today from 8.15 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium.

But as Central stand ready and focussed on defending the title, which stands as the club’s first ever domestic trophy, Sangre Grande-based North East Stars are hoping to dethrone the “Sharks” and lift the First Citizens sponsored title for the first time.

And with an incentive of $100,000 for the winners, today’s Final should surely be an interesting one.

“We want to dethrone them,” Stars’ veteran defender Keryn Navarro said. “Our guys are up for it.”

Just as Central, North East Stars journeyed to the Final needing kicks-from-the-penalty-spot wins in both the quarter-final and semi-final rounds.

The “Stars” defeated Caledonia AIA 4-1 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the quarter-final before edging San Juan Jabloteh 4-3 on penalties following a 0-0 draw in the semi-final round.

“We are really hungry (for a title),” said Stars coach Angus Eve following his team’s semi-final win over his former employers Jabloteh.

“We haven’t won anything since the first season I took over at North East Stars (in 2012) and last season we left with nothing although having a respectable 2013-2014.

The goal this season is to win at least two Cups and qualify for the Concacaf Champions League, so this is definitely where we want to be today.”

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Central F.C. will be looking to retain the First Citizen’s Cup on Friday night when they battle North East Stars at Ato Boldon  for the $100,000 prize money.

The cup was The Sharks first trophy win when they defeated Defence Force 2-1 last season. Now the California based club are keen to take the trophy back to Central for another year.

“The First Citizen’s Cup will always be special to Central F.C. as it was our first trophy” said Managing Director, Brent Sancho.  “So, yes, we will be giving 100% to win it again this year”

The club’s desire to win the glass trophy was clear on Tuesday when Head Coach, Zoran Vranes, rested several players for the Pro League clash with local rivals, W.Connection.

“I guess that shows where our focus has been this week” said Sancho. “I’m sure that W.Connection were surprised not to see Ataullah Guerra, Sean De Silva, Marcelle Francois and Jason Marcano in the starting line up.”

Vranes’s gamble nearly cost The Sharks three points as Connection held a 1-0 lead when Kurt Frederick pounced on a rebound from Sharks’ Jan-Michael Williams penalty save. Central F.C.  substitute, Ataulla Guerra equalised with an 83rd minute penalty.

“It was close” said Sancho “Jan-Michael was very unlucky. He has saved six penalties in the First Citizen’s Cup and did well to get to Hashim Arcia’s spot kick. Frederick reacted quicker than our boys and scored the rebound. But the draw still leaves us on top of the league. We were always concerned that North East were enjoying a full weeks rest while we had to face last year’s league champions, but we have a decent depth to our squad so we’ll be at full strength on Friday”

Sancho, together with Operations Director, Kevin Harrison and Team Manager, Kevin Jeffrey, began their management careers at North East Stars, but Sancho said there is no bitterness between the two clubs.

“We had good times at North East and I think we always like to see them do well against our competitors. Of course, on Friday night we won’t feel so generous!”

However, Sancho said that the California club were disappointed with North East coach Angus Eve.

“We are two players short because they breached their contracts by returning to school football. Both of them would have been in our squad for Friday’s Cup Final. One of the players, Nicholas Dillon, is playing for Angus Eve in his capacity as coach of Naparima College. I’m not saying that Dillon is only at Naps because of Angus, but there is definitely a conflict of interest when one of your players is being coached by the guy who you’re facing in a cup final.”

Sancho said that the Secondary Schools Football League, TT Pro League and the TTFA need to get together to resolve certain issues. “How can you have a player registered in two competitions with two different teams?” asked Sancho. “If Naps qualify for the F.A.Trophy and are drawn against North East Stars, the integrity of the whole competition will be tarnished. And what if Naps play Central F.C.? How can Nicholas Dillon play against the club he has a contract with?”

Sancho said that he has written to the Pro League enclosing several proposals to help resolve such issues.

“While we firmly believe that young players have the right to continue their education, once they have registered with the Pro League and entered into a contract with a club, they should no longer be allowed to play school football. You can’t have it both ways. You either want to play professionally or stay at school. It’s no coincidence that the current top school teams contain players who have played professional football. It can’t be fair to those students who have focused on their academic studies instead of joining a Pro League club.”

Sancho also stated that his letter included a complaint concerning the North East Stars coach. “In our opinion, Angus broke Pro League rules. A coach is forbidden to induce another clubs player to breach his contract. Angus knew that Dillon was contracted to Central F.C. and by allowing him to play for Naparima, he was encouraging Dillon to breach his contract.”

Central F.C. will be hoping to prevent the trophy travelling up to Sangre Grande at the end of the game and feel confident that should the game go to penalties, they will have the advantage. “Jan-Michael has a great reputation for saving penalties and our players have been solid with their spot kicks, but, of course, we will be hoping to win the trophy in the 90 minutes.” added Sancho.

The First Citizen’s Cup Final takes place on Friday 31st October at Ato Boldon Stadium with a kick off time of 8.15 p.m. Harlem Strikers vs Cunupia kicks off at 6p.m. at the same venue.