T&T Pro League
21 Jun 2012
- Written by T&T Guardian
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Jamaal Shabazz, coach of CFU Club Championship finalist Caledonia AIA described his club’s and W Connection’s qualification for the Concacaf Champions League as a “huge statement for T&T football in general and the T&T Pro League in particular.”
Both Pro League clubs Caledonia AIA and W Connection will battle in the final of the CFU Club Championship tonight, at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella, from 8pm.
Speaking after Caledonia’s 2-0 win over USL Pro club Antigua Barracuda, which sealed a spot in the region’s elite club tournament, Shabazz said: “The Pro League clubs have made a huge investment in T&T football and playing in the Champions League will help us to keep touch with the higher level of football in the Concacaf region.
T&T is out of qualification for the FIFA 2014 World Cup and also the 2012 Olympic Football Tournament. In this regard, “the next biggest avenue to expose our players is on the Concacaf Champions League stage,” according to Shabazz.
“It’s the perfect opportunity for our administrators, coaches and players to step up our game to match the best clubs in Mexico, North and Central America.”
Turning to the critical issue of funding in sport Shabazz stated: “I think we have got to give lot of credit to the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Company because without their help, at least, Caledonia would not be a professional team today.”
“Over the years Neal & Massy has been a consistent partner to us and the work we have been doing in the community, but the help from SporTT has enabled us to really stabilise our operations,” explained Shabazz.
Playing in the Concacaf Champions League will pit Caledonia AIA and W Connection against American Major League Soccer (MLS) and Mexican clubs with huge budgets, but Shabazz seems not to be daunted by the level of funding required for his club to compete.
“Under the last regime, we signed a three-year sponsorship deal with the National Lotteries Control Board (NLCB), but since the Government changed and they installed a new board, this new NLCB Board has reneged on a couple things,” he pointed out.
“Maybe they think the contract figures are too much for a little hungry football team from Laventille, but if the NLCB honours its contract with Caledonia we will be able to compete in the Champions League.
So, we intend to go to the new chairman, Mr Mitra Mahabir and ask him for the NLCB to honour its contract and see what happens then.”
Shabazz said that having the matches televised on ESPN and Fox Sports is a massive opportunity to project the communities of Morvant and Laventille in a more positive light.
“We want to make something of ourselves and our community. We don’t want to be criminals. We have the best crime plan for Morvant and Laventille but it takes funding. When people like NLCB renege on their contractual arrangements to community groups like Caledonia, they not cooling the hotspots. They helping to leave it ignited.
The Pro League provides employment to over 300 people in a direct way and over the last ten years have invested collectively among clubs—over $70 million into the economy.” Shabazz questioned: “So wait, we have to own racehorses to gain recognition as an industry?”
“Corporate T&T have to see their role in cooling the hotspots. This is preventative crime fighting, you don’t need a degree in criminology to see that.”
Caledonia takes on W Connection tonight at the Manny Ramjohn Stadium, Marabella, in an all T&T final of the CFU Club Championships.