By Michael Benjamin
It’s Pele versus Caledonia AIA and apart from the lucrative first prize of one pound of Guyana’s pristine gold, the two teams will also want to procure bragging rights when the curtains come down on the 22nd edition of the Kashif & Shanghai football extravaganza at the National Stadium Providence tonight.
Football fans could not have asked for a better New Years day treat. Obviously, the team from the Twin Island Republic would be out to regain lost pride for the loss suffered by their national team to the Golden Jaguars while laying claim to the first prize offering of one pound of Guyana’s pristine gold.
The local squad consists of the cream of the local crop coupled with the likes of Elderly Statesman, Charles ‘Lily’ Pollard who would have had a stint in the Twin Island Republic, playing for the North East Stars. Obviously, he would depend heavily on the skill and experience of Gregory ‘Jackie Chan’ Richardson who also brings international experience to the field after his stint in the Major League football arena. Add the competence and dexterity of Devon Millington, Sheldon Holder and Travis ‘Zorro’ Grant among others and the Pele strike force could very well pose a threat to the rampaging Trinidadians.
The two teams earned the right to face off for the prestigious crown following outstanding performances that culminated with convincing victories over their respective opponents in highly competitive duels Friday evening last.
Pele embarrassed Amelia’s Ward 3-1, while Caledonia AIA emulated their act with a similar victory over Milerock FC to set up tonight’s mouth watering encounter. Pele’s marksmen were Gregory ‘Jackie Chan’ Richardson [2nd], Devon Coldridge [29th] and Devon Millington [60th], while for Caledonia AIA; Walter Moore continued to torment his opponents with a 7th minute dolly. He received support from Travis Caesar [45th] and Devon Joslyn [77th].
The Caledonia United team, despite this being their inaugural outing in the K&S tournament is a Pro League team of exceptional quality and obviously should be able to adjust under the bright lights. They have defeated all and sundry in earlier matches, but the 10-1 drubbing over New Amsterdam United FC has been clinical and sounded a warning of their intentions.
The team is laden with capable ball weavers in Trevor Caesar, Abuallah Guerra and Gay among others. Further, the squad enters the field under the tutelage of Jamal Shabazz whose shrewd techniques have converted the Golden Jaguars to a tactical force, propelling that unit into the third round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.
A devout Muslim, Shabazz played a frontline role in Guyana’s demolition of the Trinidadians in that encounter and has received a lot of flak from his countrymen. He it was who had professed that his Muslim faith allowed him to have two wives provided he treated both on par. It is totally impossible for him to fulfill that criteria and tonight, he is in the opposition camp and obviously would be propelled into an uncompromising stance.
Gordon ‘Ultimate Warrior’ Braithwaite is Pele’s coach and he is brimming with confidence. His team had defeated Camptown in the 2008/09 edition of the competition and missed out in the 2011/12 edition after surrendering to Alpha ‘The Hammer’ United FC. That it has reached this far in the championships, speaks volumes of the local ball weavers.
Braithwaite admits that the Caledonia AIA squad is a tactically sound unit but he feels his team has the tools to come out victorious. “You need to understand that when two excellent teams clash each is required to lift its game to win,” Mr. Braithwaite philosophized.
He commended his boys on their successful run so far but feels that they had allowed too many chances to elude them. “We have to take full advantage of the scoring opportunities and play our natural game,” concluded Braithwaite.
Both Braithwaite and Shabazz are professional coaches in their own right. They would have prepared their respective units to the hilt but when the whistle blows the team that employs what they have learnt will be the one to emerge victorious. Pele would have experienced the sweet taste of victory before and would obviously want to savor similar experiences. Caledonia will be coming with a full force to avenge their country’s World Cup qualifying loss to the Guyanese.
The situation balances out to equilibrium when two striking forces, both with deep grouses and the required tools to avenge those grouses face off for the top prize of one pound of Guyana’s pristine gold. A thrilling, no holds barred duel looms and football fans would just want to be at the nation’s top sports facility, National Stadium Providence, to witness football of a special kind.
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