Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Central FC boss Brent Sancho says survival in the current economic climate remains the biggest challenge for the Caribbean's top club.
Central are two-time reigning Caribbean Club Champions, and on Sunday won their third consecutive Digicel Pro League—the first club in the history of the professional era to complete the three-peat—in just their fourth season of existence.
“Survival is key,” said Sancho, Central’s general manager. “…that is the essential plan for Central FC. And, of course, to continue to win, and to get out of the group stages of CONCACAF (Champions League) – it's something we would like to do.”
The Couva Sharks will attempt a third straight berth at the confederation's biggest tournament, the Concacaf Champions League, when the take on the Caribbean's top sides in May as defending champions in the final round of the Caribbean Club Championship—the qualifying tournament to the CCL.
“[But] the biggest challenge is to survive in the current financial climate,” continued Sancho, the former Minster of Sport and former Trinidad and Tobago international defender and World Cup 2006 player.
Sancho said he has held talks with potential foreign investors but insecurities over government’s subvention through the Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) and prize monies were some of the concerns.
Sancho explained, “They (potential foreign investors) have no doubt in our talent and the club’s ability. But one of the concerns is the vitality of it all.
“When we first started this club we wanted to bring a certain level of professionalism to the Pro League—the desire to win, passion to achieve things particularly with a local bunch of local players. And we've stayed 99 percent local for the near 5 years we have been in existence.”
Sancho said the consistent professionalism of his club on and off the training field sets the environment above the rest.
“We are [also] a players-first club and the players that have been here, have been here two and three seasons.”
Back-to-back Caribbean champions, three successive Digicel Pro League crowns, and a handful of knockout titles in just four seasons of existence would surely have their competition drooling.
But like the majority of outfits in the Pro League, Central too have been reliant on Government's monthly financial assistance through the Sports Company Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT).
W Connection, champions of 2000, 2001, 2005, 2011-12 and 2013-14, have the most league titles (5) since the inception of the professional era in 1999. San Juan Jabloteh, champions of 2002, 2003, 2007 and 2008, are second with four league titles, while Defence Force, winners of 1999, 2010-11 and 2012-13, are tied on three with Central, who also have the record of the fastest three crowns.
But despite the triumph and records, Sancho expressed dissatisfaction over the lack of praise and recognition.
“I had a chat with our players this morning (Tuesday) and even they were disappointed that no one from higher up (Government or corporate Trinidad and Tobago) were congratulating us. No kind of anything. We just became the first team in this era to win the top title in the country three times in a row. That’s got to worth something.”
Central edged Jabloteh 1-0 last Sunday to hold off an incredible Connection effort to win the 2016-17 league by one point ahead of theSavonetta Boys.
“The players and staff have been tremendous all the way through,” Sancho said.
“It’s always difficult when a group of men win and to keep them hungry to achieve; to keep them motivated to win again and again. You must give (coach) Dale Saunders and (technical coach) Stern John credit.
“Dale has been around for two out of the three league trophies, even in the Caribbean Club Championship and has kept a certain level throughout. He has kept these boys motivated. And, it is not an easy job dealing with a society of young men that are a lot different to when I grew up, to when I played this sport, and to keep them hungry all the way through it. It is a testament to the coach and staff.”
Sancho, who like former T&T and Sunderland forward John, had enjoyed an extensive career on two continents, and would often roll up his sleeves and assist in the Couva Sharks training.
“You must,” Sancho admits. “It makes no sense being a sailor and watching the ship sail from the land. You have to go on board and support and do all that you can do.”
Central returns to play on Wednesday in quarter-final play of the Digicel Pro Bowl—the season-ending knockout tournament on the Pro League calendar—which they won in 2015.
Central will take on St. Ann’s Rangers from 6pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium before W Connection and Police FC clash from 8pm.
Quarter-final play continue on Thursday at the same venue with Ma Pau Stars against Club Sando from 6pm, followed by San Juan Jabloteh against defending champions Defence Force from 8pm.
The QF winners will advance to the semi-final round on Sunday, Feb. 12. The competition will then conclude on Sunday, Feb. 19 with the Final.
Digicel Pro Bowl 2016/17 season
(Tuesday 31 January 2017)
Police FC 9 (Elijah Belgrave 2’, 16’, 80’ Kareem Perry 44’, 69’, Kadeem Riley 50’, Dexter Alleyne 57’, Jameel Perry 90’+2, Micah Lewis 79’) vs Point Fortin Civic 0, at Hasely Crawford Stadium;
St. Ann’s Rangers 0 (5) vs Morvant Caledonia United 0 (4)
Rangers won the game 5-4 on kicks from the penalty spot, at Hasely Crawford Stadium.
Kicks from the penalty spot
St. Ann’s Rangers 5 Morvant Caledonia United 4
Jameel Antoine (scored) Kareem Joseph (scored)
Devon Modeste (overbar) Keron Bethelmy (saved)
Che Benny (crossbar) Akim Armstrong (scored)
Shakiyl Phillip (scored) Jameel Neptune (saved)
Kyle Bartholomew (scored) Dylon King (scored)
Sedale Mc Lean (scored) Seon Thomas (scored)
Kazim Donald (scored) Kordell Samuel (saved)
Quarter Final Round
(Wednesday 8 February 2017)
Ato Boldon Stadium
Central FC vs St. Ann’s Rangers—6pm (A)
W Connection vs Police FC—8pm (B)
(Thursday 9 February 2017)
Ato Boldon Stadium
Ma Pau Stars vs Club Sando—6pm (D)
San Juan Jabloteh vs Defence Force—8pm (C)
Semi Final Round
(Sunday 12 February 2017)
Ato Boldon Stadium
A vs D (M)
B vs C (N)
(Sunday 19 February 2017)
Ato Boldon Stadium
M vs N