The minister was one of many officials and dignitaries present at the launch at Trotters sports bar and restaurant, which announced a number of positive changes to the league, as well as the emergence of the fossil fuel company Shell as one of the major sponsors of the SSFL.
Smith in particular lauded the potential the league has for marketing the best junior players the country has to offer to the world, as Digicel Sportsmax and Digicel Play came on board last year with a US $1.5 million deal to broadcast the competition to the rest of the region, as well as North America and England.
“Patrick (Vieira) was sitting with me as I had invited all the Olympiads as my special guests for that (T&T v Guatemala) game, and Patrick was there. Patrick was blown away by Levi Garcia,” he said.
Smith explained that the former Arsenal player asked him which club he came from (in Trinidad) and what was his development pattern. “I was proud and happy to say that there are many more Levi Garcia's in the (SSFL) league.”
The Minister also mentioned the league's importance in terms of its history of developing players, naming Dwight Yorke, Russell Latapy and Brent Sancho among other players who came through the ranks and went on to represent Trinidad and Tobago.
“This is extremely close to my heart,” he said. “I am one of the few people to represent St Mary's and Fatima, and St Mary's College again. My final year in 1991 as one of the captains of the team, I had the privilege of winning a National Championship which completely changed my life forever.”
The league this year will be televised on both SportsMax and CNC3 which will included 20 matches broadcast in HD, among the Shell/First Citizen's Premiership, the Coca-Cola InterCol and the Digicel Play Cup during the 2016 SSFL season.
SSFL president Anthony Creed explained some of the new developments to be implemented this season. “Shell together with First Citizens (Bank) will be the title sponsors for the boys premier as well as the boys and girls championship league, and the girls InterCol,” he said.
“The SSFL is now finalising a proposal to partner with Coca-Cola to develop our lower-division coaches with basic training from a regional FIFA officer. Simulutaneously we are working on a proposal to work with the Scottish FA for C and B license certification for our practising coaches.”
The action kicks off tomorrow at Irwin park in Siparia with San Juan North taking on reigning champs Naparima College, while Shiva Boys face Presentation San Fernando in the second match of the double-header.
The coverage will continue throughout the season with a weekly broadcast of SSFL Premiership matches as well as the zonal and national stages of InterCol.
The addition of the new Digicel Cup will then kick off for the first time on December 5th and 10th, with the InterCol Champions facing the Premier Division runners-up in one semi-final, while the Premier Division winners will face the InterCol runners-up in the second semi-final.
The winner of the Cup will be crowned the “Champion of Champions”, and receive prize money of approximately $140,000.