Eddie Hart League opens in fine style

Earl Best
Date Published: 

Eddie Hart League Opening 1973Flashback to league opening in August '73: We have come a long way.

ON SUNDAY afternoon a huge crowd turned out to witness the opening of what must surely be the biggest ever "minor" league in this country. The occasion was billed as a "Trinidad style jump-up" and, as we have now come to expect, it lived up to its billing.

Catelli All Stars and Huggins Pandemoniums were on hand at the Orange Grove Savannah to provide the music accompaniment for the waves of gayly clad players — one is tempted to say revellers — who, in emphatically non-military style, chipped merrily past the salvting base where the Minister of Education and Culture and the Parliamentary Secretary for sport stood to "take the salute."

It was a long time before the last seemingly weary standard bearer danced past officials and the panel of judges (among them Everard "Gally" Cummings and the Mighty Composer) came out to inspect the seas of colourful uniforms.

Red and yellow predominated and the waiting parade looked like a field of tomatoes and sweet peppers waiting to be reaped.

One spectator wondered aloud whether there was any possible combination of red and yellow not on display before us. Anyway, it was one such combination that got the judges' nod and Eddie's Upstarts ran off with the prize for best team on parade.

As they have done so often in the past, Eddie and his committee again demonstrated their determination to create their own traditions and opted for a community personality to kick off the ball in preference to the usual publicity-grabbing big name official.

This year, Mrs. Marilyn Gordon, a former national athletics and hockey representative now resident in Trincity, graced the proceedings with her presence. There were balloons and pigeons and the traditional gunshot boom as well.

Once Mrs. Gordon's "topee" had literally started the ball rolling, the two under 16 combinations battled unrewarded for a reduced match time of half an hour.

It was an understandably scrappy affair for it is no easy thing to play well with such a huge crowd breathing down one's neck.

Crowd control continues to be a problem here at Orange Grove and it is well known that Eddie and League Secretary Kenrick Thomas have nightmares over it. However...!!

The already late start of the feature game between the Defence Force and a League XI was further delayed by the blatant insensitivity of some generous donor who was clearly determined to his money's worth and insisted — to the palpable annoyance of the crowd — on having the press get a shot of him handing over to Eddie the handful of balls he had — oh so generously! — donated to the league.

Eddie, apparently unprepared for any such presentation, had to be fetched from halfway across the field and was justifiably peeved.

The Defence Force fielded a team without national players Ron La Forest and Milton Archibald but by no means a second string unit.

The league team's line up included Ulric "Buggy" Haynes (who has since been omitted from the national squad going to Surinam on August 10th) and former East goalkeeper Tommy Rock.

The average age of the squad could not have been 21 which augurs well for East football provided players can be persuaded to remain at home and give their serviced to their community teams.

The league team had the better of the first half exchanges if only because the Defence Force forwards were too reluctant to shoot and left most of the finishing to local boy Fitzroy "Jack" Valentine in the link line.

The opposing forwards in contrast all seemed intent on getting one past Ray Robinson in goal for the Defence Force. After the interval, the DF forwards still tended to fight shy of the shooting chances but there was much less indecision, more planning and more purpose.

Rock never had too much to do whereas Robinson at the other end had a couple of close calls.

Halfway through the second half, the left-winger drifted to the middle to pick up a low centre from the right wing and, with no defender close enough to trouble him drove a low right footer just inside the near post past the prostrate Robinson.

The remaining quarter failed to produce any more goals and the large crowd which had lined the entire periphery of the field and, as was the wont, made frequent interuptions onto the field of play at moments of high excitement, went home well satisfied with the afternoon's entertainment pondering presumably what threads to sport for the annual after-opening party coming up in a couple of hours.