Morvant-Laventille club Caledonia AIA is ready to extend arms to a neighbour in need, and calls for collective support.
This was the reaction of Caledonia Technical Director/Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz over the “frightening news” that cross-town rivals San Juan Jabloteh may not line-up in the TT Pro League for the upcoming 2012-2013 season.
“The fact that Jabloteh may not be in the Pro League frightens me because of the fact that they are Jabloteh 1974,” said Shabazz who has been the backbone of Caledonia over the years.
Two weeks ago, Jabloteh announced via a press release, that its football club among other sporting disciplines have been suspended because of “financial constraints”.
“(Jabloteh) is a monument in Trinidad and Tobago football and I can’t sit and allow this to happen,” he continued. “If Caledonia have to share the little that we have for Jabloteh to survive, we will.
“I cannot see us as a neighbouring community allowing Jabloteh to fold and not lift an arm to help. I say this because I think that all the teams in the professional league must look to this and we must sit and discus ways in which we can avoid Jabloteh not coming out. At the end of the day, the football can be an industry.
“Horseracing is an industry!” exclaimed Shabazz. “I don’t know if we have to get racehorses to be recognized as an industry!
“Football is a big industry which provides employment. Now that T&TEC (FC) and Jabloteh are out, we’re talking at least about 70 people out of jobs. These are people that have depended on football for a job. So this is important and it bothers me because I see Caledonia around the corner.
“And I ask the question to corporate Trinidad and Tobago. Do they rather meet Jamaal Shabazz as a gang leader or as a coach? If I become a gang leader and a criminal (giggles), it could be very challenging.
The football has done some things in my life, the lives of some of the people in Caledonia AIA, and to the people in Jabloteh, W Connection and St. Ann’s Rangers; and I say that we can’t let this thing go down just like that.
“We will not allow it to go down just like that. We don’t have all the resources. We barely survive, but what is enough for us must certainly be able to help the Jabloteh effort, and we are willing to help them.”
Jabloteh are four-time TT Pro League Champions and while Caledonia have never lifted the domestic League title, the under budget Morvant-Laventille club is the recently crowned Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Champion—a tournament which boasts financially stable North American Soccer League (NASL) club Puerto Rico Islanders and United Soccer League (USL) club Antigua Barracuda.
Caledonia survives mainly on the cheer dedication of Shabazz , who’s never ending commitment recently saw him travel to Brazil under the invitation of the Jamaican Football Federation and the support of the Sportt Company of Trinidad and Tobago for an enhancement workshop at the Traffic Football Academy, Porto Feliz which is near São Paulo.
“I went to enhance myself as a coach and learn more of the business aspect of football, how to set up a professional youth academy, a medical and physiology department, and important stuff that we don’t learn in a coaching course,” explained Shabazz. “It’s so vital for setting up a proper project and a proper programme. I think we want to take Caledonia AIA to the next level and we need to be able to learn to do the things.”
Caledonia remains an exemplar club, from the days of borrowing from the “cook, baker and candle stick maker” as Shabazz would say, to now enjoying success at domestic and regional levels.
Caledonia reached four Finals last season winning three(First Citizens Cup, Lucozade Sport Goal Shield and FA Trophy) and finished in a creditable third position on the Digicel Pro League ladder just two points behind winner W Connection and one point behind T&TEC FC.
After powering its way to Caribbean supremacy, Caledonia now debuts into the Group stage of the CONCACAF Champions’ League and the TT Pro League will also be represented by CCL familiar, W Connection. While Jabloteh, also very familiar with the CCL, sits in the shadows of doubt over next season in the TT Pro League.