Former international football official and Physical Education teacher, Merere Gonzales was elected president of the Secondary Schools Football League (SSFL) in a virtual election last Thursday. Gonzales who sits as the chairman of the SSFL East Zone for the past decade totaled 56 votes in a comfortable victory over former Trinity College East principal Derek West (28 votes) and immediate past president Phillip Fraser (28 votes).
Commenting after securing the top position in the local organization, he said, “I feel very elated, excited and blessed to be the president of the SSFL of which I have been a member since 1988. I have over 30 years of experience holding various positions such as assistant secretary, secretary and vice chairman.”
The youthful 60-year-old who officiated in the 1997 Malaysia Youth World Cup and 1998 France World Cup added. “I felt that I have the necessary experience, knowledge, competency and expertise. I want to work along with the membership to assist the student-athletes to achieve their dream, goals and aspirations.” The Physical Education teacher who served for 30 years gave us an insight into his footballing journey. “I was an active footballer competitively at both the zonal and national level. Then, I moved on to be a local, regional and international match official, FIFA fitness instructor as well as a futsal instructor.”
The other executive members for the term 2021-2023 are Essiel Seecharan (first vice- President), Syandene Blackman-Walsh (second vice-president), Laurence Seepersad (assistant secretary-operations), Gerald Elliot (assistant secretary/treasurer-administration) and Azaad Mohammed-Khan (general secretary/treasurer).
One of the major obstacles the SSFL executive will have to deal with is the COVID-19 Pandemic. Gonzales said, “We will go ahead positively, trusting that by September 2021, we shall have a season and we will plan with that expectation. We need to have several plans in place if there is an increase of COVID-19 cases. We can do virtual skills challenges or even smaller version of the game similar to futsal.”
Despite being early days, the energetic Gonzales has already mapped out some plans for the future of secondary school football in T&T. He said, “I would look into upgrading the qualifications of these coaches because the more knowledgeable and certified the coaches are they will lead to the improvement of skills and potential of the players. Therefore, the standard of the football will improve.”
Other plans and ideas:
- Certification for the administrators, managers, trainers, physios of teams.
- Continued discussions with the various stakeholders like the TTFA, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Sport, sponsors various sponsors and the Alumni’s of the schools.
- Constitution reform
- Working in conjunction with the national program to be on board with the policy of the TTFA.
- A platform that is organized by the SSFL for student-athletes seeking scholarships.
- More emphasis on female football
- A system in place for analytical and scientific data on the progression of players so it will be easier for scouts to source information.
- A mini tournament within the region to determine the best Secondary School.
- Embracing the technology to ease the process of attaining information