Coca Cola InterCol champion Presentation College (San Fernando) faces a challenging season with the loss of more than 98 per cent of their starting roster from last year's Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL), a doubtful coach Shawn Cooper said on Tuesday.
Its arch-rival Naparima College also faces a similar predicament. Coach Angus Eve said that his entire starting team, who won last year's Premier Division League title, is out because the players have moved on. However, the former national midfielder said he is not concerned by it and will begin from scratch again, as it is a normal situation with schools' teams.
Cooper, who guided the southern team to its first Inter Col title, said he will only begin preparation for the schools' league after the coming Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examinations scheduled to start on July 13. He said he has been monitoring the students' time table to determine when his preparation programme will commence.
To date, the southern giants have to wait until the players from the team's starting squad sit exams, and an additional three who are certain to be lost when they take the Caribbean Advance Proficiency Examination (CAPE).
"We have 17 guys sitting exams, and that is the whole team I am talking about. Among those who not writing exams represents about 12 fringe players from Form four who are going into Form five and some of them who were not on the team last year. However, the core of the team comes from the 17 group.
"I have to wait until exams finish really to start because after this COVID-19 pandemic and people missed school, so I cannot afford to call the boys out to training and exams coming up. I have to let them concentrate on their exams."
The High Street, San Fernando school is set to begin this season with a clash with Naparima for the Digicel Cup on September 11, according to a revised fixture that was distributed by SSFL officials recently. However, Cooper said according to the fixture, Presentation will begin its season later on September 16 with a match against Moruga Secondary at home.
On Monday, SSFL president William Wallace said his executive will meet tomorrow to decide on the tournament, such as the format etc. He told Guardian Media Sports on June 4 that it could be a shortened season due to the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Eve said he saw no need for the format of the League to change.
He explained, "School is supposed to open on the September 1, so once the country conforms to the guidelines of the government and there are no real issues, I don't see why we have to change the format in any way. All of the fields are paying venues so you can still only bring the officials of the game, the manager, the masseuse etc and the games can be played with no fans. It is being done all over the world at present."
Naparima has lost its whole team already, as none of the first-team players will be eligible to play this season, pointing to strikers Seon Shipley and Isa Bramble together with the talents of Atiba Lewis, Tariq Sampson, Declan Marcelle and Mark Ramdeen among others. Similar to Presentation, Eve plans to commence practice after the examinations in July.
Over in Tobago, Speyside coach Kerry Lynch said that he will also begin training in mid-July. He explained that while he will have most of his team for this season, he is only concerned about two key players, Nicholas Sanchez and Daleon Beckles, as both will be sitting the CSEC exam this month.