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Defending Digicel Pro League champions Defence Force will return to action on Tuesday 18 February against Central FC from 6 pm at the Ato Boldon Stadium in a rescheduled Round Two Match Day Two fixture, after a month of inactivity.
A self-imposed suspension issued by the Trinidad and Tobago Defence Force on January 10, saw the TTDF pull out of all sporting activities at national, regional and community levels.
The suspension came following Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar’s call to use every possible resource in the fight against the disturbing spike in violent crime, which at the time, led to 22 murders just 10 days into 2014.
A statement by the TTDF back then, said the suspension was in favour of the operational exigencies of the service and because of the particular requirements personnel are expected to satisfy. The statement also said that the self-imposed suspension would last as long as is deemed necessary by the TTDF.
Now a month later and short of match fitness, the defending league champions are still ready to soldier on in defence of their title.
“Honestly it will be an uphill battle,” accepted assistant coach Marvin Gordon. “But we are confident in ourselves.
The soldiers returned to the training pitch on Wednesday afternoon under head coach Ross Russell and Gordon.
“Our main goal is winning back the league and qualifying for the Concacaf Champions League," Gordon continued.
“At present W Connection are dropping vital points, and if we take it one game at a time and treat every game as a final, I believe we can defend our title. It won’t be easy though, because we are aware that the league is very competitive and every team wants to win just as bad as us.”
Defence Force are seventh on the nine-team table with 13 points, 20 points away from leaders W Connection (33 points). But have seven games in hand, inclusive of one against W Connection which was scheduled to play on the weekend.
Central will be in action on Friday 14, in the second match of a double header at the Ato Boldon Stadium against San Juan Jabloteh from 8 pm, following a 6 pm clash between St. Ann's Rangers and North East Stars.
On Saturday 15, home team Point Fortin Civic and Caledonia AIA, two teams in strong persuit of Connection, will tackle each other from 3.30 pm at the Mahaica Oval.
“The League is pleased to welcome back the Defence Force into the fold,” said TT Pro League CEO, Dexter Skeene. “The Defence Force is a critical aspect to the Pro League given their history and tradition in Trinidad and Tobago football.
“We have been in contact with the Minister of Nation Security (Gary Griffith) and the Minister of Sport (Anil Roberts) and we are thankful for their support and understand.”
The League CEO also reiterated that sport is one of the answers to crime and anti-social behaviour.
Defence Force are one of two teams that will represent T&T in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship, which serves as the Caribbean qualifying phase to the Concacaf Champions League.
Defence Force will contest Group 3 of the Club Championship hosted in Jamaica from March 21-25, against Guyana’s Alpha United, Suriname’s Sporting Vereniging Notch, and home-team Habour View FC.
Meanwhile last season’s Pro League runners-up, Caledonia, will contest Group 2 during the same dates against Sportive de Mirebalais of host country Haiti, Inter Moengotapoe of Suriname and Jamaica’s Waterhouse FC.
While Group 1 will be contested in Puerto Rico, with Centro Dominguito of the Netherlands Antilles, Unite Saint Rosienne of Curacao, Cayman Islands outfit Bodden Town and home team Bayamon FC making up that group.
The winner of each group will advance to the semi-final round with automatic berth Valencia FC of Haiti.
“We will definitely be ready for the CFU,” assured Gordon. “We want to go and top our group and advance to the next stage of qualifying for the Concacaf Champions League.
“We are very confident in our players at the moment, for the tasks ahead. Our players love playing football and being away for the last month, they now have the hunger and thirst to get back to it.”
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