$100 000 at stake tonight
THE WINNING goal will be worth a whopping $100 000 to either Jose y Jose Bajan Pride Ballers or Nu Look Plus GForce 360 Connection at Kensington Oval, tonight.
After all the hype and hullabaloo, the eagerly-awaited grand final of the LIME Pelican Challenge, Barbados’ richest ever football tournament, will kick off at 8 p.m. between these two franchises, who are both based in the St Michael South Central constituency.
With plenty of spectator prizes, a keen and competitive final on the island’s best playing surface, and an After Party making it an attractive package, close to 10 000 football fans are expected flock to Caribbean cricket’s “Mecca” for the climax of this historic competition, which has captured the imagination and heart of hundreds of Barbadians.
Politicians from both major parties and several dignitaries have also been gracing the Challenge, organised by former Deputy Prime Minister, Mia Mottley and co-ordinated by long-standing football administrator Randy Harris, with their presence.
On a day that Barbados celebrates its 45th anniversary of independence, the Carrington Village-based Bajan Pride Ballers, with its industrious name, may benefit from this nationalistic spirit.
Judging from the cheers of the fans during the semi-finals, they seem to have the biggest fan-base and owner Stephen Griffith and his team, must be lauded for providing their supporters with Bajan Pride Ballers jerseys. One expects that 360 Connection’s owner Fabian Wharton will also be doing the same to whip up the support of the Brittons Hill posse.
The Bajan Pride Ballers will definitely start as favourites after their thrilling 2-1 victory over the highly-fancied Phoenix UFO Toyota Firehouse in the semi-finals and may have the psychological advantage after winning by a similar result against 360 Connection when they met in the Group exchanges.
But the unrelenting 360 Connection side have displayed steely resolve and a never-say-die attitude while playing with grit and determination.
This was evident in the quarter-final when they held their nerves to come from behind and defeat another favoured outfit, Barbados Steel Works Top Bay Settlers on penalties while in the semi-final, they soaked up the pressure from Broad Street Men and Women Red Tridents before prevailing 2-0.
Former Barbados point man Dwayne “Schillaci” Stanford, who will have exciting youngsters Armando Lashley and Kadeem Latham as his striking partners, will be a key man for 360 Connection.
And Bajan Pride Ballers’ dread-locked captain, Julian Mottley and fellow central defender Shawn Clarke could be kept very busy protecting emerging goalkeeper Greg Jones, who rose to the occasion in the semi-final with a couple of crucial saves.
Corey McCollin, who played for Ellerton in the Premier League, is not a big-name player by any means but he has made his presence felt with his over-lapping runs while Bajan Pride Ballers may use Kimar Griffith to pay close attention to the slippery Stanford, who is never an easy man to mark because of his off-the-ball movements.
At the other end, strikers Angus Doyle and Dwayne McClean, who have both played for the Barbados team, will be looking to penetrate 360 Connection’s defence and have a crack at their inspirational captain and goalkeeper Kerry Holder. Doyle is known for his speed while the powerfully-built McClean has a fierce shot and can also be lethal in dead-ball situations.
With Robert Charles on the injured list, sweeper Jomo Brathwaite has done an excellent job marshalling the 360 Connection defence with support from Nicoli Blenman and Germaine Caesar.
Youngster Zidkigah Samuel has also had his moments while veteran Luther Watson has performed his defensive midfield duties in his usual uncompromising manner.
But the player who could create a stir with his creative and clinical finishing is the St Lucian-born attacking midfielder Zaeehaeus Polius, who has been Bajan Pride Ballers’ talisman throughout the tournament.
Polius will be joined by six-footer Damian Williams, who showcased some sublime skills in the semis and the stylish Jabar Greene as they battle for midfield supremacy against another 360 Connection’s stalwart Anthony “Del Piero” Cumberbatch and the talented duo of Shawn King and Chad Parris.
While King has been the workhorse in midfield for 360 Connection, Cumberbatch, like fine wine, seems to be getting better with age and tilt the game in his team favour if he is allowed the space.
The tactics of both coaches, the English-trained Lennux Ferdinand of 360 Connection and Bajan Pride Ballers’ Eric Alleyne, a former Barbados captain and midfield maestro, will be critical as the players will be playing on a much bigger field than at the National Stadium.
Hence, the team which can knock the ball around by stringing together passes, maintain possession and look for the goal-scoring openings, could very well triumph. Fitness will also be a factor, especially in the match goes into extra time.
The final will be preceded by the third place match between Fire House and Red Tridents at 5 p.m. while there will be entertainment by Lil Rick, Edwin Yearwood, Fari Levi and the Israel Lovell Foundation in between matches.
360 Connection – Kerry Holder (captain), Jomo Brathwaite, Nicoli Blenman, Dwayne Stanford, Robert Charles, Jermaine Caesar, Zidkigah Samuel, Anthony Cumberbatch, Renaldo Waithe, Karl Cole, Armando Lashley, Luther Watson, Chad Parris, Shawn King, Jamar Thomas, Kadeem Latham, Tazeio Riley, Damien Seale, Troy Johnson, Enrico Cave, Kidwe Sandiford, Adrian Reid, Bryan Gay.
Owner/manager: Fabian Wharton, Coach: Lennux Ferdinand.
Jose y Jose Bajan Pride Ballers – Julian Mottley (captain), Shawn Clarke, Jabar Greene, Dwayne McClean, Zaeehaeus Polius, Kimar Griffith, Jason Mounter, Carlo Perry, Corey McCollin, Damian Williams, Morrison Taylor, Shane Clarke, Norris Broomes, Angus Doyle, Ryan Clarke, Richard Maynard, Jason Collymore, Zico Edmee, Rohan Hewitt, Jamel Pinder, Kirk Best, Craig Jones.
Owner: Stephen Griffith, Manager: Mark Armstrong, Coach: Eric Alleyne.