Second Caribbean Zone qualifier to be determined this week
The 16-team field for the first round of the 2003 CONCACAF Champions Cup will be all but set this weekend, when the second Caribbean Zone representative is decided in the Group B qualifying tournament in Trinidad & Tobago.
Three clubs – Harbour View FC of Jamaica, US Robert of Martinique and host W Connection FC – will be looking to join Jamaican side Arnett Gardens FC as the Caribbean entrants in the first round proper of the continental championship for club sides, which will kick off next year. A fourth team scheduled to play – FICA of Haiti – has withdrawn from the competition.
The tournament opens at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva on 11 December, when Harbour View face US Robert. Two days later the round-robin moves to the nearby Manny Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella, when W Connection take on Harbour View. The tournament concludes on 15 December in Marabella when W Connection play US Robert.
W Connection enters the event as the favorite, reaching the first round of the 2002 Champions Cup after winning a difficult series in Haiti plagued by illness and torrential rain. But Harbour View features a number of Jamaican internationals, and US Robert will be looking to emulate the successful performance of the island’s national team in the Gold Cup over the past year.
W Connection finished second in this year’s Trinidad & Tobago PFL, two points off the pace of champion San Juan Jabloteh SL, but gained a measure of redemption with a victory in the FA Trophy. The “Savonetta Boys,” based in southern Trinidad, boast a cosmopolitan side, featuring a number of Saint Lucian internationals and Brazilian imports – along with a smattering of T&T internationals as well.
Harbour View entered the competition as third-place finisher in the 2001-02 Jamaica National Premier League, when runner-up Hazard United FC declined to participate. The Kingston-based club lost to Arnett Gardens in the first end-of-round final, and after 14 weeks lie third in the overall table, two points off the pace set by Arnett (and one behind Hazard). It’s their first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions Cup since 1987, when they lost in the first round on penalties to L’Etoile Morne a l’Eau of Martinique.
Union Sportive du Robert are in sixth place in the Division d’Honneur in Martinique after nine rounds, with three victories, four draws and two losses for 19 points, three behind leaders CS Case-Pilote. Captained by national team midfielder, a key component in Martinique’s remarkable run to the FC Gold Cup quarterfinals last year, the club finished second to Club Franciscain in the 2001/02 campaign. The club finished a harsh fourth in the 1994 CONCACAF Champions Cup, losing both their semifinal (to CS Cartagines) and third-place match (Alianza FC) on penalty kicks after playing to scoreless draws.(www.footballconfederation.com