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November 17, 2000

Too much confusion in schools' football


DURING the last week or so, the National Intercol competition has come very close to a state of virtual chaos, following the appeals lodged by some teams eliminated during the first two rounds of the competition.

In one case, Tranquillity eventually withdrew its claim that referee Gary Andrews had failed to play the mandatory 45 minutes during the first half of its 4-3 loss to St. Benedict's. In another instance, the SSFL threw out St. Anthony's appeal over the status of Naparima's Dia Hunte, following the Tigers' 3-0 second round defeat. There had been suspicions in the St. Anthony's camp that Hunte had not been properly transferred from his former school, St. Benedict's.

The third matter also involved the question of player eligibility, and this time there was a guilty verdict, with the tournament being directly affected. In fact it was the SSFL that had its doubts over the registration of three Elizabeth's players, prior to that school's 3-1 win over Signal Hill. The league's general secretary, Azaad Khan, informed the media that Elizabeth's was penalized because of its failure to provide information to the credentials committee on the status of the players. An investigation by the SSFL eventually proved that one player, in addition to being unregistered with the league, was ineligible to compete anyway. Elizabeth's was duly expelled from the tournament, with the game awarded to Signal Hill. However, Signal Hill sent the league a letter indicating that it would not be taking any further part in the National Intercol competition. As a result of all of this, prospective quarter-final opponents, Mucurapo, automatically advanced to the semi-finals.

It could have been much worse. Suppose St. Anthony's had a winning appeal as well? What would have been the situation? The expulsion of Naparima, plus the reinstatement of the Tigers to face Malick in the last eight? Two teams advancing because of appeals?

The fact of the matter is that the issues of player eligibility continues to plague the SSFL. It is an old and annoying problem with its potential to alter the flow of competition due to the various sanctions imposed on the guilty parties: loss of points, expulsions, bans etc. Some schools continue to openly flaunt the rules of both the SSFL and the Ministry of Education. There are many problems that occur with both the registration and transfer of players between schools during that period of confusion in early September: when the commencement of the academic year, the start of competition and the release of O and A-level exam results all take place simultaneously. Then there are those schools that blatantly field players who have already repeated a year between Form One and Form Five or who are transferred to schools for the simple purpose of playing football. These players, who are not aware that they are being exploited, spend lots of time away from classes and yield very little academic output. They leave the particular school after about two years with no qualifications, and the rest of their lives ahead of them.

One suggestion to curb all of this is for the SSFL and the Education Ministry to work closer together than ever before. Comprehensive data should be kept on all registered players. The Ministry should have Common Entrance dates available, along with the dates and results of O and A level exams. The Ministry should also be more aggressive with schools regarding punctuation, enforcing its limit on school absences per term. As for the SSFL, it is simply going to have to keep a closer watch on the movements the players between teams as well as the activities of the schools. In this regard, the SSFL should utilize the Ministry of Education as a valuable resource for information and to investigate any anomalies that may appear in a player's registration record.

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