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Digicel T&T Pro League champions Defence Force and runner-up Caledonia AIA will kick off their Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Club Championship qualifiers today. Both will take separate routes in their bids to reach the Concacaf Champions League. Defence Force, which lifted the Concacaf title in both 1978 and 1985, will compete in Kingston, Jamaica in its Group Three qualifiers while Caledonia AIA, which reached the group stages of the CCL the last two seasons will play in Haiti in Group Two.
Defence Force, CFU champions in 2001 and currently fifth on the Digicel T&T Pro League, arrived in Jamaica on Wednesday and will open its campaign against Guyana’s Alpha United at the Harbour View Stadium, from 6.30 pm. Two hours later, host club, Harbour View, CFU champions in 2004 and 2007 meet debutants Sporting Vereniging Notch of Suriname. It will be the second meeting in three years between Defence Force and Alpha United, the current leaders of the Guyana Football Federation League, after the latter won 4-3 on penalties in the 2011 third-place playoff after a 1-1 regulation-time draw in Georgetown, Guyana.
The “Teteron Boys” who have had to deal with recent major set-backs, in the murder of former player Rawle Fletcher in December, a month selfimposed suspension from all sporting activities in January, and the recent passing of winger Kevon Carter, who died of a heart attack on February 28, will be hopeful of continuing their recent good run of form.
And coach Ross Russell, who is expecting good things added: “The guys want to work hard. They want to play and make T&T proud at this season’s Championship. Following tonight’s match, Defence Force will face Notch on Sunday before closing out its campaign against five-time CFU Club Championship qualifiers Harbour View, which is making a return to the qualifiers for the first time in seven years.
Caledonia, the 2012 CFU champions, will meet home team Sportive de Mirebalais in the feature match of a Group Two double-header at the Parc Nelson, Petit-Frere, Saint-Louis du Nord from 8 pm. In the first match, Jamaica’s Waterhouse FC, comes up against six-time CFU Club tourney qualifiers, Suriname’s Inter Moengotapoe from 6pm.
Caledonia which failed to win any of its six matches in the two previous CCL main group stages and is in the midst of a four-match winless streak in the Digicel Pro League will then battle Waterhouse on Sunday followed by Inter Moengotapoe on Tuesday.
In addition to its current poor domestic form, Caledonia AIA coach Jamaal Shabazz will also be without three key players in defender Aubrey David, midfielder Akim Armstrong and striker Jamal Gay.
David, 23, recently completed a season-long loan move to Finnish Premier League outfit FF Jaro, while Armstrong and Gay, are on trials in Finland, and hoping to secure European moves. In their absence, Shabazz included three youngsters in Nical Stephens, Kyle Bartholomew and Jameel Neptune in the travelling squad as he hopes to shake off a disappointing season in the domestically and strive for a fresh start in the CFU.
Group One, to be contested Bayamon, Puerto Rico, will feature Centro Dominguito (Netherlands Antilles), Unite Saint Rosienne of Curacao, Cayman Islands’ Bodden Town and host Bayamon FC making up that group. At the end of the three group series, the winners will qualify for the semifinals carded for April and will be joined by automatic qualifiers, Valencia FC of Haiti.
Group Two: Venue—Parc
Nelson, Petit-Frere, Saint-
Louis du Nord
Waterhouse vs Inter Moengotapoe, 6 pm
Mirebalais vs Caledonioa AIA, 8 pm
Inter Moengotapoe vs Caledonia, 5 pm
Mirebalais vs Waterhouse, 7 pm
Caledonia AIA vs
Waterhouse, 5 pm
Mirebalais vs Inter
Moengotapoe, 7 pm
Venue: Harbour View Stadium, Harbour View.
Alpha United vs Defence Force, 6.30 pm
Harbour View vs Notch, 8.30 pm
Defence Force vs Notch, 6.30 pm
Harbour View vs Alpha United, 8.30 pm
Notch vs Alpha United, 6.30 pm
Harbour View vs Defence Force, 8.30 pm