THE Boys’ Secondary Schools football season has ended with a dramatic spectacle as a new winner of the National Coca-Cola Intercol competition was crowned. Fatima College, with grit and determination, edged Premiership champions St Benedict’s College 1-0 at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, Mucurapo, on Wednesday afternoon.
Both teams previously met in the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) Premiership group stage and in the Premiership final – drawing 1-1 in the first game of the season before St Benedict’s defeated Fatima 3-1 to lift the first major trophy of the campaign.
Fatima's last appearance in the National Intercol final was in 2013, losing out to a powerful St Augustine team 4-1. For St Benedict’s, they last competed for the coveted trophy in 2014 but they suffered a 1-0 defeat to East Mucurapo.
This season has proven to be a fairytale for Fatima as they were a newly-promoted team from the SSFL Championship whose initial target was to survive relegation. But they exceeded all expectations finishing as Premiership runners-up, North Zone Intercol winners and now National Intercol winners.
In a "revenge" match against the La Romaine Lions, Fatima started the match strongly, putting pressure on their La Romaine opponents while keeping them at bay.
The boys from the north took the lead in the 12th minute when Joshua Mason capitalised on a crucial mistake by St Benedict’s goalkeeper, Ja-Ir Buckmire. The goalie intended to clear a back-pass from his team-mate, but miserably failed as his sliced kick was headed in between the posts by the Fatima striker.
The match was starved of chances as both teams cancelled each other out with tight, tactical football which resembled a chess match.
But Fatima went close to doubling their lead in the 53rd minute when Khiba Romany attempted an acrobatic bicycle kick which flew inches wide past the upright.
St Benedict’s had a chance to equalise five minutes later as Derrel Garcia viciously fired a free-kick on target that initially troubled Tristan Edwards in the Fatima goal. However, the goalkeeper quickly recovered to claim the ball before the prowling attackers could have pounced.
A defensive and disciplined Fatima unit continued to stifle the flamboyant St Benedict’s attackers who have been lighting up the league all season, and they held on to their slender lead to claim victory and lift the National Intercol trophy for the first time since 2005.
Fatima defender, Jaden Williams, was named Man of the Match for his excellent performance at the back. Amidst his team’s celebration, he delightfully expressed, “I’m very happy that the boys were able to stick it out and bring home the win. It’s our first National Intercol title since 2005, so it’s great to bring back something to the north.”
“My mindset, personally, was that we played them twice in the league – we drew in the first game and, due to unfortunate circumstances, we lost in the second game because we weren’t playing as a unit. We went back to drawing board and when we came back, we were able to beat them with our game plan.”
The winning coach, Hutson "Baba’ Charles" in extreme ecstasy said, “I said it before: I will be back (for the final) and I wanted Benedict’s. So my dream came true. I thought we played a beautiful game. We did our homework and you can surely see what happened (in the game).”
“(Our success was due to) belief. Before the season, the plan was just to survive (relegation) but I told them I am a winner – I love to win – and I think they went with that belief, and you can see the result (of it). For a team that got relegated, came back up and did this, it’s unbelievable!”
Naparima College remain the only school to win the treble (Premiership, Zonal Intercol and National Intercol) having achieved the feat twice (2015 and 2018).
Both Fatima and St Benedict’s will travel to Jamaica in January for the Caribbean High School Championships to face Jamaica College and Clarendon College, the top two schools in the country. The tournament will begin on January 13 and conclude on January 15 as the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) and the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) reignite the partnership and rivalry between TT and Jamaica.