Coach of the PIC Liberta Blackhawks football team, Rowan Benjamin, said although he believed in his team’s ability to do well in the top flight of Antigua’s football competition, he did not expect his young and somewhat inexperienced squad to lift this year’s coveted Premier Division title.
Speaking following his team’s triumph in the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association-hosted league on Sunday, Benjamin said his only hope going into the 2018/19 competition was for his team to do well and remain in the top flight.
“Yes, we went back up into the Premier Division but unlike, maybe, some other teams, we have strengthened certain areas so we know it’s without a doubt that we would have done well; but to win the championship I would have said that we overachieved, but we expected to be in the top five or so. It’s a very good feeling for the team, myself and the entire community.”
The former coach of the country’s senior national team, however, credited the PIC Liberta Blackhawks’ remarkable feat to the experience and leadership roles of a number of players. “We have Jamarlie Stevens [Bling] who was part of the Hoppers championship team before and he came with a wealth of experience in the back line. We refer to him as the rock. We have also ‘Fox’Julian who had been with BASSA for about four or five championships, so those two really led the team and they were like big brothers to the others,” he said.
“The Cuban players, they also know a bit about championships in their country where out-left-back Napoli would have played at the highest level and the goalkeeper would have also played at the highest level in terms ofrepresenting their country,” he added. Blackhawks were crowned champions after reaching 34 points from their quota of 18 matches.
They routed former champions Parham 3-0 on Sunday to complete their championship winning run. Benjamin said he will allow the players to bask in their success for a while, but said focus will then shift towards plotting a defense ahead of the 2019/20 domestic season.
“We’ve done the hard work with the team, built a solid base, a solid foundation and looking forward to the next season. I think we’re looking forward to repeating this thing [winning the title] because I am experienced and I know what it takes to win championships; not only in the Premier Division but in the First Division. I know exactly what needs to be done for these things to happen,” the coach said.
“Yes it is going to be difficult but we’ll prepare for it. There are certain areas of the team we will need to strengthen but it was just to get over this hurdle,” he added. Members of the PIC Liberta Blackhawks and their supporters celebrated at the ARG on Sunday after Old Road FC, the only other team that could have lifted the tile, were beaten by Sandals/Inet Grenades in the day’s second match.