Caledonia vows to fight on in Concacaf Champions League

Caledonia AIA Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz, midfielder Abdallah Phillips and goalkeeper Shemel Louison head towards the bench prior to the start of the Toluca clash in MexicoDespite losing their first two games in the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League group stage and a chance at qualifying for the quarterfinal round, TT Pro League outfit Caledonia AIA of Morvant/Laventille intends to fight back.

Caledonia's remaining Group 6 matches of the CCL includes a second leg clash against group leaders Deportivo Toluca (6 points) of Mexico at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on September 18, and a September 23 away meeting with Guatemalan champions CSD Communications (3 points).

“We are warriors; we owe it to the TT Pro League, our fellow clubs, and Caribbean football to be more competitive at CONCACAF level,” said a very enthusiastic Caledonia AIA Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz.

“Two games down but we not going to bow, we have to fight back. This is how we make our living and the Champions League is the highest club level a player can ply his trade in the CONCACAF region.”

The defiant Shabazz went on to add, “We will fight to the end and use the next two matches to raise the standard of our game.

“CONCACAF has not yet seen the best of Caledonia.”

Caledonia, at the bottom on the group without a point, were defeated 3-1 away to Toluca on August 6, and 3-0 against Comunicaciones on August 29 in Trinidad.

Caledonia forward Jamal Gay (14) agaisnt Toluca“It's a difficult pill to swallow when you know that Guatemalan team is not really three (3) goals better than us. Our possession was good and we created five chances but just could not get the ball into the back of the net.

“Our finishing was not up to the level, and we let not only ourselves down, but the country and the Caribbean as well,” Shabazz frankly stated.

Shabazz, a former Guyana Head Coach who took the “Golden Jaguars” to the semifinal stage in Concacaf qualifiers of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, feels that hard work and commitment has made Caledonia a top team in the Caribbean, but acknowledges that a lot is needed to become a sharp team at CONCACAF level.

“We are a ghetto team but there are still too many guys whose minds have not elevated out of the ghetto and into the thought pattern of becoming an elite athlete, so that we can transform into an entity that can truly inspire ghetto youths.

“I look at the abilities of (midfielders) Nathan Lewis, Noel Williams and Keyon “Bodom” Edwards and if only these guys could change their lifestyles and rest more, eat better and live for the game.

“They need to give more, a player like Jamal Gay should be in Europe, but is it bothering him that he is not even in the national team right now and should at least be in Saudi Arabia?

Caledonia players during a recent training ground exercise“You get a sense that our guys are happy to do well locally and at Caribbean level but the failure to make an ultimate sacrifice to become that elite athlete is holding us back,” stated Shabazz.

Not absolving himself and his staff from blame, Shabazz added, “The challenge in coaching is not just winning and losing. I think as a staff we must do more to motivate and inspire the players as individuals and as a group to get more ambitious. It really starts with us.”