Morvant Caledonia United, a fresh step in dream of eliminating 'borderline'

Morvant Caledonia United logo.

Friday 18 September 2015

Professional football club Caledonia AIA recently took a fresh step towards their mission of someday unifying their hometown communities separated by gangs-imposed "borderline" wars, by re-branding the Pro League outfit under the new name, Morvant Caledonia United.

Formerly Caledonia AIA of Morvant/Laventille, and nicknamed the “Morvant/Laventille Stallions” or simply called “Calé”, the football club was formed back in 1979 by schoolboys from the Morvant, Laventille and Caledonia communities, and stands one former club of ex-Trinidad and Tobago stars Russell Latapy, Dennis Lawrence, Stokely Mason, Shurland David and aspiring FIFA president David Nakhid.

In 2012, Caledonia were crowned Caribbean Club Champions, one of the pinnacle moments of the club which includes representing Trinidad and Tobago at back-to-back CONCACAF Champions League in the 2012/2013 and 2013/2014 editions.

But over the years the Caledonia AIA have lost young players to gang related activities, including "borderline" wars, an agonising defeat for many families within the East Port of Spain, Morvant and Laventille communities.

Now, founder and present technical director at the club, Jamaal Shabazz, is also calling on support from every direction, including the newly elected People’s National Movement (PNM) Government to achieve Morvant Caledonia United’s goal of a unified community.

Shabazz, a former Trinidad and Tobago footballer and coach, explained, “Five years now we've been discussing re-branding since Caledonia is a small part of the bigger entity, which is Morvant. The emergence of gang related activity, divisive politics and the like have rendered our community into sectors and borderlines.

“As a youth growing up we could (have gone) to any part of Morvant. We must (now) rekindle that community spirit and bring our villages in Morvant together again.”

Morvant Caledonia United’s creative and sustainable director, Séjoux Lëo Star, centre, chats with Morvant Caledonia United midfielders Akim Armstrong (left) and Abdallah Phillips during a recent training session. (Image courtesy Morvant Caledonia United)

High on the re-branding initiative is the club’s first creative and sustainable director, Séjoux Lëo Star, whose focus is to reconnect the club with the Morvant-Caledonia community.

“We have started to identify ways in which we are going to work closer with the community because professional football is about club and community,” said Séjoux.

Séjoux said a very important step is developing a fan base from within Morvant, while the Morvant Caledonia United youth academy and partnerships with other academies in Morvant will be vital in focusing on youths towards developing a united Morvant.

Shabazz suggests that, with the help of the present PNM government, a mini stadium, cultural facility, top class library and even a hospital and mall in Morvant will help “to change our condition onto our feet, instead of on our knees.”

“Is that really too much to ask of a party that has never lost this constituency?” questioned Shabazz, a former Trinidad and Tobago Men's and Women's Teams' coach. “After a lifetime of blind political loyalty we still do not have facilities and infrastructure in a community where sports and culture can make a huge impact on the lives of a lot of people.

“The lack of opportunities and sporting facilities has transformed me more into an activist than a coach.”

Although disgruntled, Shabazz is optimistic that things will improve under the current PNM Government.

He further stated: “The PNM knows that our mothers and fathers have been loyal to the party and while we are not asking for handouts, we need for them to remember who have stood with them during the darkest days of the party.

Morvant Caledonia United's technical director Jamaal Shabazz (left) and assistant coach Rajesh Latchoo share a moment during their team's warm-up to a Pro League match in May 2014. (Image courtesy www.ttproleague.com)

“I live in Morvant, I went to school here, and I stand for a united community. Football by its nature is a factor that can bring the people together.

“Once we get the necessary resources and the facilities, we are going to address this foolish gang violence in our community. Because our players come from all parts of Morvant and Caledonia and I am not accepting any borderlines.”

Shabazz’s ambition remains to ensure that Morvant Caledonia United will continue to be a factor for progress and development in the community and to play a part in national and regional development of football.

Despite the stigma attached to the communities of Morvant and Laventille, the club born out of the area have not only contributed to the development of Latapy, Lawrence, Mason, (S) David and Densill Theobald, but also such players as ex-T&T international Conrod Smith and present “Soca Warriors” defender Radanfah Abu Bakr.

Even top players out of the Caribbean have utilised the avenue created by the club. Some of those players include Charles Pollard, Walter Moore (Guyana), Kendal Velox, Wesley John (St. Vincent), Franklyn Drayton, Franklyn Baptiste (Grenada), Titus Elva, Valencius Joseph and Sheldon Emmanuel (St. Lucia).

Morvant Caledonia United have never won the Pro League championship, but apart from being Caribbean Club Champions in 2012, they have captured the FA Trophy on three occasions (2008, 2011/12 & 2012/13). The club were also winners of the First Citizens Cup (2011 & 2012), Digicel Pro Bowl (2008) and Lucozade Sport Goal Shield (2012).

But the honour that’s closest to Shabazz’s heart, is winning the Pro League’s Most Disciplined Team award for the 2011/2012 season.

“In the 36 years of our existence, while I am proud of some of our achievements on the field. I am (happier) for the avenue we have been able to create for young people to develop themselves in a disciplined environment.

“Discipline and the way we carry ourselves on and off the pitch is so important to us at the club. We strive for order and discipline in an environment where mob rule, chaos and disorder stares us in the face.”

Shabazz, who said he is motivated by organisations such as Desperadoes Steel Orchestra, Massy All Stars, Solo Harmonites Steel Orchestra and Malick Folk Performers, added, “I hate it when our players get a yellow or red card. I cannot see anything that will make me as a coach get ejected from a game. The example we set to our communities is what keeps us in the game and in the battle for the minds of our young people. That's why that the Most Disciplined Trophy meant so much to us.”