By Colin Benjamin
A tournament whose journey began on the 15th of July, with more than 100 teams across the 10 regions of Guyana concluded last night with the Government Technical Institute triumphing in the inaugural Digicel Schools football championships.
GTI carved a 5-3 victory in an action packed final over Linden’s Wismar Christianburg secondary at the GCC Ground Bourda.
In the initial 20 minutes both GTI and Wismar regularly gave away possession to each other very loosely. But GTI playing with its customary 4-3-3 formation and led by the impressive mid-field trio of captain and national under-19 player Ian Allen and Phillip Benjamin and Jahal Greaves, drew first blood. A lovely through from the mid-field was latched onto by eventual MVP of the competition, Jermaine Junor who placed his shot wide of Wismar goalie Yannick Simmons in the 20th minute.
Wismar struck back almost immediately in unusual circumstances. There was total miscommunication between GTI’s goal-keeper and his defenders in defending a corner and this saw Wismar star striker Clarence Huggins coast in unmarked to head home the equalizer in the 22nd minute.
The sudden explosion of goals continued as in the 24th minute a brilliant corner kick that would have made Xavi Hernandez proud was launched by GTI skipper Ian Allen. This kick fell inch perfectly onto the head of Darren Peters drifting in at back post, to put GTI back ahead in the 24th minute.
For the remainder of the first half GTI continued to dominate possession and were unlucky not to score more goals. They went into the interval 2-1 ahead.
After the interval GTI’s dominance continued with Darren Fraser scoring in the 51st minute to make it 3-1 and at this stage it was looking like plain sailing for the town boys.
However a sense of deja vu from the semi-final probably occurred for the Wismar outfit, as they were also 3-1 down in the semi-finals vs Waramadong. Could they come from behind again?
They were awarded a penalty in the 57th minute and a goal was scored by star player Trenton Lashley to make the game 3-2. After striker Huggins was pulled down by opposition keeper Nkosie Barker, who was yellow carded, no one doubted Wismar’s chances of coming from behind.
Goals continued to come as this time GTI pulled one back via a Keifa Adams strike in the 64th minute. Lashley then in a wonderful one-two play between himself and number 9 Gavin Morrison, ran from mid-field to score to leave the game excitingly poised at 4-3 in the 85th minute.
The GTI team were more composed in the dying minutes of the game as they played more crisp ground passes, while Wismar were playing too many hopeless long-balls to lone striker Clarence Huggins.
That tactic worked for GTI as Darren Peters scored what proved to be the winning goal: a scorching volley via a corner kick from Captain Allen at the Rohan Kanhai end of the ground.
Speaking to Stabroek Sport at the end, the winning GTI coach Edward Cort said… ”we expected a tough game, but I did not expect the opposition to be so aggressive against us, since that played right into our hands by allowing many gaps to open up which my mid-field and strikers exploited well throughout the game. Overall I thank Digicel for this competition and if you think about it we were probably destined to win, given our team brandished the same red colours as Digicel”.
Among those at the presentation ceremony were Prime Minister Sam Hinds and Digicel’s CEO Gregory Dean. GTI striker Jermaine Junior received two trophies for the Most Valuable Player (MVP) and for scoring the most goals in the competition – 23. All the dignitaries then went on to make glowing remarks about the tournament with Minister of Education Shaik Baksh saying it was the best football competition in Guyana in his view. Digicel’s CEO thanked the ministry and the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) and pledged to hold the competition again next year.
Earlier, the 3rd place play-off game between the New Amsterdam Technical Institute and Waramadong Secondary saw NATI secure a 3-2 penalty victory over the Region 7 boys after their exciting encounter had finished 4-4 in regulation time. This was the second consecutive shoot-out defeat for Waramadong. It had threatened not to turn up yesterday because it was unhappy with a stoppage in the previous match. It however turned up for yesterday’s game.
The scorers for NATI were Alasker Burnett in the 18th minute, Leroy James in the 38th and 48th minute and Ron Lyken in the 81st minute. For Waramadong, Aaron Fredericks scored in the 15th minute, Alwayne Franics 39th, McCurd Krammaer 42nd minute and Dorwin Percy in the 42nd.
District Education Officer for the Upper Mazaruni side Lemmel Thomas in speaking to Stabroek Sports said the entire Region 7 is proud of the team’s performance. He thanked Digicel for the competition which he said enabled players from that part of the country to get exposure. He apologized to Digicel for the conduct of individuals from the team who were upset over the previous match.