SSFL honours its top performers at Awards Ceremony

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National Senior Team head coach Dennis Lawrence used the forum at the Awards Ceremony of the Secondary Schools Football League on Friday to impart solid advice to over two hundred students of the game sharing  approach that has brought him through the successes he has enjoyed as a player and coach.

The SSFL ceremony was staged at the Couva/Pt.Lisas Chamber of Commerce in Couva and had an audience of 400 persons.

Lawrence, now age 43, is the only coach from Trinidad and Tobago to taste success at the English FA Cup level as a coach while being assistant coach to Roberto Martinez at Wigan Athletic in 2013. And of course everyone recalls his historic header which propelled this country to the 2006 World Cup Finals with a 1-0 win over Bahrain in 2005. He possesses a UEFA Pro License and was an assistant coach at Everton and Wigan Athletic in the English Premiership.

National Coach Dennis Lawrence delivering the feature address

But Lawrence,  who hails from Morvant,  revealed that his journey from his days as a player in the Secondary Schools Football League was far from smooth sailing. The former Defence Force and Wrexham player was a member of the 1990 Malick Senior Comprehensive team that dominated the SSFL and Intercol in the early 90s. But who would think that the lanky Lawrence would have played just 12 minutes for the powerhouse school.

“There are three things I have earmarked that can bring you success and I have used these three things because it starts with the letter D and my name is Dennis and it starts with the letter D,” he told the gathering of officials including Minister of Education Anthony Garcia and SSFL President William Wallace among other officials, students, award recipients and players.

“Determination – it is something that no one can give you… you have to have it and Mr Azaad Khan is here today in the audience. He was part of the process for myself when I went to Malick Senior Comprehensive,” Lawrence said as he recalled how last year Khan presented him with an old newspaper clipping that showed a photo of the 19-member Malick squad of 1990.

“I played twelve minutes in the Secondary Schools football league. That’s all I played because the coach at the time thought I wasn’t big enough, I wasn’t quick enough and I wasn’t strong enough, so he didn’t feel that I had the ability to make it,” Lawrence said.

“I looked at the photo, I was the only player that played 12 minutes and immediately I then realised something that showed that you have to have determination in order to make it. Of the 19 persons in the photo I was the only player that represented Trinidad and Tobago at a World Cup,” Lawrence said, sparking huge applauds from the audience.

“Then there is determination. This  is having the ability to understand that you need to decide very quickly who are your friends and who are not your friends because dedication requires that when it is 10:30 in the night and you have training tomorrow morning, you must be able to leave your friends and say I have to go and rest because I have training tomorrow morning,” he said, advising to confuse the meaning of true friends and acquaintances as there was a clear difference.

SSFL President William Wallace delivers his address on Friday at the Awards Ceremony.

“Discipline – Discipline is something in my life that has always got me through because that is what I have. It is being able to understand that 10am is not 10:30 am, 10 am is 9:30am. “For the big players such as Romelu Lukaku (who Lawrence coached at Everton), this is what they have because I have seen and work with the elite players and I have seen what it takes to be an elite player.”

Referring to the fact that many success achievers are financially driven, particularly elite footballers, Lawrence said that success was not out of reach regardless what motivates an individual.

“Sought these “D’s in your life and I assure you that you will not only become successful footballers but successful people in whatever you try to accomplish,” he said.

Shiva Boys’ Hindu College playmaker Judah Garcia and Bishop Anstey (Port-of-Spain) midfield maestro Ranae Ward were the big winners in the awards category.

Garcia led Shiva Boys to the Coca-Cola National Intercol and South Intercol titles while Ward inspired Bishop to the First Citizen Girls’ National Intercol and North Intercol trophies. Among the top five players of the year, Garcia was joined by by teammate Yohannes Richardson, San Juan North Secondary forward Renaldo Boyce, St Anthony’s College playmaker Che Benny and  Naparima College midfielder Judah St Louis.

In the Girls category, National Under 20 team midfielder Renae Ward was named the Player of the Year and she was joined by Pleasantville Secondary attacker Aaliyah Pascall,Bishop Anstey (Port-of-Spain) goalkeeper K’lil Keshwar as well as Jelese Alexander (Signal Hill Secondary) and Shania Lewis (Tranquillity Secondary) as the SSFL’s Top Five.

SSFL Boys’ All-Star Team

Goalkeeper: Denzil Smith (Shiva Boys Hindu College), Emmanuel John (Trinity College East);

Defenders: Yohannes Richardson (Shiva Boys Hindu College), Mylz Barrington (Presentation College, San F’do), Derron John (St Anthony’s College), Rondell Payne (Naparima College), Collin Wheeler (Carapichaima East Secondary), Matthaeus Granger (St Mary’s College);

Midfielders: Jordan Riley (Presentation College, San F’do), Quinn Rodney (Shiva Boys Hindu College), Judah St Louis (Naparima College), Judah Garcia (Shiva Boys Hindu College), Che Benny (St Anthony’s College), Rivaldo Coryat (St Augustine Secondary), John Paul-Rochford (QRC);

Forwards: Theophilus Bourne (Carapichaima East Secondary), Haile Beckles (St Anthony’s College), Junior Asson (Shiva Boys Hindu College), Renaldo Boyce (San Juan North Secondary), Brandon Semper (San Juan North Secondary), Kerry Mc Donald (Speyside High School), Nickel Orr (Trinity College East).

Top 5: Judah St Louis (Naparima College), Judah Garcia (Shiva Boys Hindu College), Che Benny (St Anthony’s College), Yohannes Richardson (Shiva Boys Hindu College), Renaldo Boyce (San Juan North Secondary).

MVP: Judah Garcia (Shiva Boys Hindu College).

SSFL Girls’ All-Star Team

Goalkeepers: K’lil Keshwar (Bishop Anstey, PoS), Aaliayah Alveres (Signal Hill Secondary);

Defenders: Shawnelle Rose, Latifha Pascall (both Pleasantville Secondary), Kia Edwards (Carapichaima East Secondary), Jhaney Simon (Penal Secondary), Kerise King, Karleen Modeste (both Tranquillity Secondary), Faith Mitchell-Moore (Bishop Anstey, East);

Midfielders: Jasandra Joseph, Laurel Romain (both Pleasantville Secondary), Iysha Lewis (Tranquillity Secondary), Ranae Ward (Bishop Anstey, PoS), Shenice Maynard (Carapichaima East Secondary), Chelcy Ralph (St Augustine Secondary), Brittney Williams (Bishop Anstey, PoS), Celine Loraine (Signal Hill Secondary);

Forwards: Jelese Alexander (Signal Hill Secondary), Shania Lewis, Felicia King (both Tranquillity Secondary), Afiyah Cornwall (Carapichaima East Secondary), Aaliyah Pascall (Pleasantville Secondary), Alexcia Ali (Penal Secondary).

Top 5: Ranae Ward, K’lil Keshwar (both Bishop Anstey, PoS), Jelese Alexander (Signal Hill Secondary), Shania Lewis (Tranquillity Secondary) and Aaliyah Pascall (Pleasantville Secondary).

MVP: Ranae Ward (Bishop Anstey, PoS).

Members of the audience at Friday’s Awards ceremony at the Couva/Pt Lisas Chamber of Commerce.