Undisputed national football champs – Placencia Assassins
The first Premier League of Belize (PLB) national football tournament culminated on Saturday night at the FFB Stadium in Belmopan, where 2011 Super League of Belize champion Placencia Assassins, who joined the Premier League anticipating the celebrated exit of former FFB president Dr. Bertie Chimilio, proved that they are truly number one in the nation, when they clinched the PLB championship with a 1-1 draw in game 2 of the Final against first-year over-achievers Police United. Placencia Assassins had won game 1 of the home-and-away final series at home in Independence the previous Saturday night, May 5, by a 2-1 score; so they only needed a draw to win the series and the championship by an aggregate score, which they did this past Saturday, May 12.
From the time, a few years ago, when BPFL champions Sagitun and some other teams withdrew from participation in the Chimilio-led FFB/BPFL tournament and resurfaced under different names in the new Super League of Belize, there have been debates about the relative strength of the two leagues. At one point, some fans proposed that the two champions, the BPFL and the Super League champions, should meet in a “champion of champions” showdown series to settle the matter. But the FFB/BPFL would have none of it, declaring that they would be downgrading themselves, as they were the legitimate league, with a significantly higher level of play than the Super League, who were regarded as a renegade league. Moreover, the BPFL was reportedly threatened with sanctions by the FFB if they participated in any “champion of champions” with the Super League.
Well, after the FIFA mandated new elections last December in all district associations and the formation of the new Premier League of Belize, all Belizean clubs were invited to play under one banner in 2012; and so it was that the Super League champions of 2011, Placencia Assassins, entered the 2012 opening season tournament of the Premier League of Belize beginning on February 11 of this year.
As fate would have it, another former Super League team, this one a newly formed Police United team that won the Super League’s Belize City Interoffice Closed tournament at the amateur level in January of this year, proceeded to recruit some established top quality players from both Super League and BPFL teams, and not only held their own in the Premier League tournament, but finished at the top of their Zone standings in undefeated fashion.
In the PLB North Zone semifinals, Police drew 2-2 at the MCC Grounds with former BPFL powerhouse F.C. Belize, then clinched a spot in the final with a 1-nil victory at the FFB Stadium., maintaining their undefeated status, something unheard of in previous BPFL semi-pro tournaments.
For their part, in the South Zone, Placencia Assassins held former three-peat BPFL champions BDF (though BDF had lost a number of star players) to a nil-nil stalemate on their home turf in Placencia, and then drew with them again 2-2 at the Norman Broaster Stadium, before prevailing in the penalty shoot-out, 4-2, to earn a spot in the championship final series.
And so it was that the surprise team of the tournament, Police United, by virtue of their better regular season record, found themselves as top seed in the championship playoffs against Placencia Assassins, a team that was no newcomer to “prime time”, and in fact were the reigning Super League of Belize champions.
Game 1 of the final was a 2-1 victory for Placencia Assassins at the Michael Ashcroft Stadium in Independence last Saturday night, May 5; and the return match this past Saturday, May 12, at the FFB Stadium in Belmopan ended 1-1, which was all that the Placencia Assassins needed to claim the championship with a 3-2 aggregate score. Placencia midfielder Elias Donaire sent a left foot swerve from the right side that dropped into the far left top corner for the go-ahead goal at the 12th minute of play. It wasn’t until injury time of 2nd half before Police got the equalizer from Evan Mariano, a header from a scramble in front of goal. Police United “came a long way to die,” but they were gracious in defeat. It was a fiercely contested series, but in the end, even disappointed Police United players had to acknowledge that Placencia Assassins were deserving champions. Police United can hold their heads high. For a first-year team, they accomplished a whole lot, though they fell short at the end.
In retrospect, with the aborted BPFL tournament in 2011, there was only one acclaimed top level football champion in Belize in 2011, and it was Placencia Assassins of the Super League of Belize. And if there previously was any doubt that they are deserving of going down in the record books of Belize football, when it is finally written, as the legitimate national champions of 2011, then the events of Saturday night at the FFB Stadium should put all doubts to rest. Placencia Assassins are the national football champions of Belize for the second year running.
(We will have more on the championship game in our next issue.)