With bragging rights on the line, who will win today’s QRC/CIC clash?
Now that the dust has settled and we know that the United States will be watching the 2018 World Cup from their television sets, (sorry I just had to) can we adjust our focus back to the Secondary Schools Football League just for a bit?
There may be no final on the cards today, no title hopes on the line, or even the atmosphere that made this derby the talk of the town (many moons ago), but tell that to any pupil who attends either Queen’s Royal College or St Mary’s College today.
Yes folks. You’ve got it right, today is the derby. The very first derby in schools football. The derby that inspired Lord Christo’s famous Calypso in the 1960s. Today “now-come” fans just call it the “Clásico” in fond reference to La Liga’s big-two clash. Today, QRC will host their most hated rivals St Mary’s College, otherwise known as CIC, at the QRC ground in St Clair.
The clash sad to say, has lacked much relevance or “oomph” in the recent years in the SSFL. For one, St Anthony’s College call a lot of the shots in the North Zone, winning the National League Title three times in the last 15 years. And things have gotten worse now that the format of the SSFL has turned into the Premier League since 2014, because now the South Zone teams are creating bedlam in the supposed established order.
But “we not taking dat!” seems to be the call back from the North Zone. Well, kind of. The “Westmoorings Tigers” are four points off top spot in third place, so the NZ flag is held high.
But then the next North Zone team is Fatima College, ten points off the pace. They are followed by CIC 11 points adrift, and Trinity College Moka and QRC sit in the relegation zone, so it’s an awkward argument where bragging rights are concerned.
Yet in spite of this, there will be a crowd at the College ground tomorrow. And it is unlikely to be a fully partisan crowd either, with the men in stripes expected to have not just their rowdy travelling contingent, but female spectators ranging from their sister school St Joseph’s Convent POS (who are there to see either side play to be honest), as well as students from St Francois Girls, Bishop’s Anstey and *place random town school here*.
And let’s not forget the old boys. Who will take time out of their otherwise busy schedule to come in their droves and hurl insults at the enemy camp both on and off the pitch.
So the Clásico does have its pull regardless of a lack of pedigree from both teams. And here’s why.
For one, the history is inescapable. The College’s League as it was known in the 60s, only comprised of the “tong skools” with QRC and CIC exchanging league and national titles for the first four years. Then other schools were built across the country and the inevitable diversity in title winners began.
Despite the fact that both teams play their home matches in the SSFL roughly a kilometre from each other in the same patch of the semi-suburban area uptown Port of Spain called St Clair, the rivalry has always been heated between the two since the outset.
The last meaningful clash between the two teams came in the 2009 North Zone InterCol Final, where QRC won the title 3-0 on penalties after a tense final that finished scoreless. CIC got their revenge a year later in the North Zone InterCol semi-finals winning the shoot-out 5-4 after another 0-0 draw.
In the time since, the fixture hasn’t been as high-stakes as fans have grown used to, but the rivalry is still alive even in the Premier League era. Two years ago, QRC pulled out their best performance all season to thrash the Saints 3-0 at Serpentine road.
The pendulum swung the next way 12 months later, as CIC edged out the Royalians 2-1 at the same ground, with St Mary’s fans cheering at the sideline during injury time.
Arrogant much? Not really. Members of the media have stepped out of their objective shoes to throw words at their rival team, mainly the journalists who attended QRC no less. So fans should expect a lot more banter this afternoon from any direction both on and off the pitch.
On the pitch however, things haven’t gone quite according to plan for either side. The hosts have lost six of their nine matches so far, including the opening match against Speyside High!
Hopes were high coming into the season of course. The Royalians snapped up Nigel Grosvenor, the architect of five national titles, and still had their star man of the last two seasons John-Paul Rochford. Things haven’t gone totally to plan as “Grovey” is still searching for the winning formula. And one would feel he will need to find it today.
CIC on the other hand, have the consolation of not being in the relegation zone at the moment. Plus, they had the best possible warm up on the weekend, smashing six past Speyside at Serpentine Road. And what’s worse is that while QRC may have Rochford as their focal point in attack combined with a nippy Darius Dickson, CIC have Michel Poon Angeron and Gabriel Nanton, as well as a better record overall all season.
However, this could be the clash where the Grosvenor alchemy takes effect, with the veteran coach used to these high-pressure situations, and very much familiar with CIC, guiding his former team to many wins in the “Battle of the Saints” derby. QRC may rise to the occasion and squeeze a much-needed win to jumpstart their campaign.
So who will take the derby this afternoon? What we know, is that this will be a mini final in its own right. And the winning team will claim the right to taunt rival fans endlessly until next year. Unless they both meet in the North Zone InterCol in November.
Where does your allegiance lie? Team “A Razza-Tazza” or team “A Boomalack”?
National League wins
QRC – 4
St Mary’s College – 2
North Zone InterCol wins
St Mary’s College – 8
QRC – 6
National InterCol wins
St Mary’s College – 2
QRC – 1
Last year’s result: St Mary’s College 2-1 QRC
*Feature image courtesy Nicholas Williams*