Barataria residents elated over the return of top flight football to the community
Nathan Lewis scored in the third minute of play to give San Juan Jabloteh the eventual winner against 10-man Point Fortin Civic at Barataria Recreation Ground on Saturday in Round Three action of the Digicel Pro League 2015/16.
The big winners, though, were the people of the San Juan/Barataria area, having top-flight football return to their community for the first time in 17 years.
“Who played there?” asked a middle-aged man as he entered one of the entrances to the ground following the game.
“Jabloteh just beat Point Fortin one-nil,” a woman replied.
“Wow! I missed a big game,” the man said aloud, with a disappointed grumble.
The man, however, was elated to find out that Jabloteh will host Defence Force on Saturday March 12 at the same Barataria Recreation Ground.
“Everyone is already asking ‘when is the next game here?’” said San Juan Jabloteh technical director/head coach Keith Jeffrey. “You can be sure of a bigger crowd for the next game against Army. Army will have a nice crowd and we will have a nice crowd. This is what the community wants, whether it’s San Juan, Barataria or Bourg Malatrese.
“What we achieved today is a way of showing the Government—help us in the community and this is what can happen. In the stadium we are getting 10-15 supporters and here, on our first day back in the community, we have just over a hundred. And if we were in Bourg Malatrese, were our fan base is really bigger, it would have been over 500.”
Over the years the Pro League and its Chief Executive Officer Dexter Skeene have stood steadfast on the notion that going back to the communities is vital to the growth and sustainability of the League and its clubs, and have been lobbying various Government administrations for the community grounds to be upgraded and available for professional play.
With Trinidad and Tobago not spared by the global economic downturn, Pro League clubs are also affected in the domino-effect. A recent a 40 percent deduction in the Government’s subvention to Pro League clubs from TT$83,000 to TT$50,000 has put some clubs in a spin, financially.
Earlier this week Jeffrey said, “We understand the finances of the club and the country on a whole. We understand that going back into the communities will save clubs from extinction. Sooner than later we will all have to go back to the communities.”
Jeffrey, with the help of Barataria councillor Pernell Bruno, and members of the San Juan Jabloteh management, stood proud men after piloting the club’s first return to the community after nearly two decades.
“It’s a privilege having the football back into the community and seeing the turnout of supporters,” said Bruno.
“I am hoping by bringing back sports on a full scale, it will inspire kids in the community, and to bring out the families in a great atmosphere. It’s all part of building a better Barataria.”
Bruno, who attained a scholarship through sport at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, United States, said it was the activities at the Barataria Recreation Ground that encouraged him into sports. He represented Trinidad and Tobago at the CARIFTA and CAC games in athletics.
“Many people don’t know, the first race that Hasely Crawford ran after winning the 1976 Olympic Gold Medal was on this ground,” said Bruno, as he beamed with pride.
“Bringing the football back to the community is the best thing that could ever happen,” said one resident, who witnessed the game. “The football should really be based around community and you will get more people coming out to support. It’s the best thing the Pro League can do in 2016 and onwards.
“It can also help alleviate the crime problem. When you have younger guys in the area come out and watch the senior guys—mentors of the game like Marvin Oliver and others—it will help kids aspire to want to represent their communities and even the country.”
Oliver was brilliant. The 40-year-old former Trinidad and Tobago international didn’t disappoint on his first game back with San Juan Jabloteh after four years. His sleek passing and intelligent plays even impressed some Point Fortin supporters. Oliver also got close to finding the back of the net with a half volley from distance after controlling the ball off his chest with ten minutes left.
But it was Nathan Lewis’ half volley off a deep Akeem Adams cross that separated both sides.
Oliver, who was later replaced by former Jabloteh youth player and senior team debutant, 20-year-old midfielder Aaquil Campbell, said, “It’s great being back, not just for San Juan Jabloteh and for our first game being in the San Juan/Barataria area, but seeing the people come out.
“I think the turnout was great on short notice. I know the next home game will have much more people. This is good for the Pro League, not just for Jabloteh, seeing that we want the football back into the community. We will see this as the ground-breaking game that brought football back into the communities. This is what all the players in the League wants, to have the football in their community.”
Oliver is hoping that within the next couple years, every team will have proper playing surfaces and adequate facilities in their community.
Oliver, a former League winner with Jabloteh and 2007 Toyota/TT Pro League Player of the Year, helped Central FC claim their inaugural Pro League and Caribbean Club Championship titles last season.
He said although Jabloteh, a club rich in history, have lost the winning mentality, the intention of the “San Juan Kings” is to become a league title contender by next season.
“I want to help raise football in my community. If not as a player beyond this season, then as a coach. I will see how the season rides out and how best I can help the team going forward in becoming a championship team again.”
Jabloteh didn’t produce a bag of goals but the game wasn’t short on excitement.
Civic forward Juma Clarence rattled the home side’s crossbar from 30 yards out six minutes from the half. It was the first real danger for Jabloteh’s Guyanese goalie Andrew Durant, who was given the starting role after Grenada national team goalkeeper Shemel Louison picked up an injury in the warm-up and was left out of the squad.
Although creating a couple nervous moments for his side, Durant’s work was little compared to his opposite number, Akini Adams, in goal for Civic.
Jabloteh goal scorer Lewis wasted a gift of an opportunity to put the home side two goals up in the 9th-minute when he hit directly at Adams in a one-on-one situation following a giveaway by defender Shaquille Stewart, who was later sent off following his second yellow card of the game in the 67th-minute.
But Civic troubles had increased early on, after conceding in the third minute, with coach Leroy De Leon forced into two premature changes with Jayson Joseph and Shackiel Henry replacing Nedeon Noel and Trent Lougheed by the half hour mark.
However Jabloteh failed to find the back of the net a second time.
Twice in the second half Adams denied Jabloteh’s Jamaican midfielder Fabian Reid, including a superb tip overbar to deny Lewis, who wasted overbar on another try. Jabloteh midfielder and captain Damian Williams also offered an attempt from 30 yards out but was inches high with 13 minutes left.
Also on Saturday, at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium, five goals were produced as Club Sando edged St. Ann’s Rangers 3-2.
Late goals from Devon Modeste and American Bradley Nestor secured full points for Sando, who had taken the first lead through Jesse Downing.
But where forced into a comeback after Keron Cornwall and Kadeem Hutchinson grabbed a goal each for Rangers.
Action will continue on Sunday with North East Stars hosting Police FC from 4pm at the Larry Gomes Stadium.
St. Ann's Rangers 2 (Keron Cornwall 47’, Kadeem Hutshinson 70’) vs Club Sando 3 (Jesse Downing 44’, Devon Modeste 83’, Bradley Nestor 87’), at Manny Ramjohn Stadium;
San Juan Jabloteh 1 (Nathan Lewis 3’) vs Point Fortin Civic 0, at Barataria Recreation Ground.
Sunday 06 March 2016
North East Stars vs Police FC—4pm, Larry Gomes Stadium
Wednesday 09 March 2016
Morvant Caledonia United vs San Juan Jabloteh—4pm, Larry Gomes Stadium
W Connection vs Police FC—8 pm, Ato Boldon Stadium
San Juan Jabloteh: 35.Andrew Durant; 4.Garth Thomas, 6.Akeem Benjamin, 7.Jamal Gay, 21.Aquil Selby, 24.Adrian Reid, 11.Damian Williams, 13.Fabien Reid, 27.Nathan Lewis (23.Kennedy Hinkson 88th minute), 14.Sean Bonval (2.Noel Williams 68th minute), 26.Marvin Oliver (20.Aaquil Campbell 82nd minute)
Unused substitutes: 9.Brent Sam, 15.Jerome Mc Intyre, 36.Raheem Belgrave (GK), 16.Kaashif Thomas
Coach: Keith Jeffrey
Point Fortin Civic: 52.Akini Adams; 7.Nickcolson Thomas, 8.Akeem Redhead, 30.Trent Lougheed (9.Shackiel Henry 31st minute), 15.Nedeon Noel (6.Jayson Joseph 28th minute), 19.Andrei Pacheco (Capt.), 18.Shaquille Stewart (Y+Y=Red Card), 11.Tigana Sparks, 32.Jamal John, 29.Sylvester Teesdale, 24.Juma Clarence
Unused substitutes: 1.Miles Goodman (GK), 21.Ronell Paul, 3.Kurfi Pierre, 31.Shaquille Dublin, 20.Jamille Boatswain
Coach: Leroy DeLeon
Referee: Marlon Perouse