Even the critics received an applause from Caledonia AIA following the TT Pro League club’s success in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship.
Now the club asks for it in return.
Caledonia defeated compatriot W Connection 4-3 on penalties in the Final last Thursday at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium following a 1-1 draw at the end of 120 minutes which were interrupted three times by power outages.
However both sides celebrated qualification into the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions’ League 2012-2013 season by reaching the CFU Final with Caledonia defeating United Soccer Leagues (USL) club Antigua Barracuda 2-0 and W Connection trashing North American Soccer League club and two-time defending Caribbean champs Puerto Rico Islanders 4-1 in the semi-final round.
Caledonia (CFU winner) enters the CCL for the first time in the club’s 32 year history joining a group that includes Major League Soccer (MLS) outfit Seattle Sounders and Honduran club, Marathon. While Connection (CFU runner-up), very familiar with the CCL, will face top Mexican side Chivas de Guadalajara and Guatemalan team Xelaju,
Puerto Rico Islanders, which defeated Antigua Barracuda 2-0 with goals by Joshua Hansen and a Jonathan Frias Fana penalty in the CFU third place playoff in the earlier match on Thursday, grabbed the third and final CCL spot.
The Islanders (CFU third place) enters the group of David Beckham's LA Galaxy of the MLS and El Salvador’s Isidro Metapan in the Group stage.
Caledonia’s accomplishments goes further this season as the Morvant/Laventille added domestic titles, the First Citizens Cup, the FA Trophy and the Lucozade Sport Goal Shield after reaching four Finals and finishing third in the Digicel Pro League, two points shy of winners W Connection(40 points) and one point behind runner-up and debutants T&TEC FC.
However it wasn’t all success for Caledonia over the years despite producing a quality level of football, receiving heavy criticism by some football supporters over the years.
“I think the (critics) helped us,” said assistant coach Jerry Moe during his post-match remarks. “They kept us focused; they kept us strong although we knew we were doing the right thing. People only throw stones at a tree that bears fruit.”
He added, “We are now going to (the CONCACAF Champions’ League) and try to represent Trinidad and Tobago at the best of our ability.
I think (eveyone) need to stick with it and keep giving the players hope because the football is improving don’t matter what some people are saying on the streets.
If they come to the games they would see that it is getting faster and we are slowly turning the corner. It’s just a matter of time before we get back to where we were a few years ago (even at the national). Once the players start taking responsibility for their performance and their own individual development, then we would go a lot further.
I think the coaches are doing a good job in trying to get the players prepare for international football which we saw against the NASL leaders Puerto Rico Islanders and Antigua Barracuda which also plays in the US because they weren’t a cut above us. So while we are doing well, it’s for the people to see it. And if we do well at CONCACAF then people will really believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Speaking on Thursday’s hard-fought win against Connection Moe explained, “We had normal preparation for a game of its nature. In terms of during the game with all the stoppages turning it into a very long night, with the blackouts, I think we persevered. At times when we weren’t playing too well because of fatigue, I thought we had enough to win the game. We had players capable of winning the game even though we weren’t playing that well.”
It was Caledonia’s third overall CFU Club Championship appearance with 1998 being the first and this season the second consecutive.
“Everyone is happy (now that we have won the Club Championship). This is something that we have been working on for a long time. Since inception we have always wanted to be in the Caribbean Club Championship, and to win it is more like the icing on the cake. I think it’s something we have been working hard for, and we deserve it,” said the notable assistant to head coach Jamaal Shabazz.
Moe who held the coaching reigns on numerous occasions in absence of Shabazz who is also the head coach of Guyana’s Men’s National Senior Team, said there isn’t a secret to Caledonia’s all-time season success.
“It’s not a secret. We put in the hard work and with a couple of new players such as Devorn (Jorsling) who was big for us this season, Stephan David was consistent … and also Jamal gay. Everyone helped in their own way based on the roles we asked them to play. This was a very long season and we used a lot of players. And even though we did that, we were still able to get the results. It was a total team effort from the staff and players.
“I think you’ve got to persevere. I think if you believe in something, then keep doing it over and over. One day you’re going to reap the benefits. It’s like if you’re a farmer and you’re planting corn. If you don’t wait for it to grow, then it would come out of the garden too early. I think we believed in the crop that we were planting all the time and now it’s time to reap the benefits of it,” he ended.