I started this as a short piece on my intercol experiences for inclusion in an anthology being compiled by Naparima College. As I gathered information, I began hearing bits and pieces of interesting stories. I realized that intercol had a glorious history, but there was very little easily accessible information on the subject. I spoke with former players and spectators, and recognized the need to seek primary sources as I realized that over time memory becomes more and more unreliable.

For example of what time does to recall, I played in the great intercol matches in 1953, and I remember I was sure of these facts: In the third game, Presentation was awarded a penalty in the first half, and I was able to keep the score level. The Guardian account tells different story - we were already two goals up when the penalty was awarded in the second period.

Although I heard interesting stories and had the privilege to speak with Will Payne who captained the first Naparima intercol team in 1935, and with Merle Baird who starred in the 1944 replay, I relied heavily on the information contained in the Port of Spain Gazette, Jamaica Gleaner and the Trinidad Guardian, of the times described in this narrative.

Early Days: 1890 - 1930

The rhythm was jamming, the stadium was rocking the supporters were jumping. This was true intercol fever but the action was taking place in Marabella where horses once ran and not in Skinner Park, which for decades was the home of intercol football in San Fernando. The intercol football tradition dates almost as far back as the start of organized football in Trinidad and Tobago.
The game of football was introduced to Trinidad circa 1890, and soon became very popular. Over time, the rules of the game have been modified, offering better protection to the players although the rough-and-tumble antics of the old days were more entertaining. The equipment has also been improved significantly allowing the players to display greater skills. Today’s footballs are water resistant and are inflated to between 8.5 and 15.6 psi through tiny orifices. They are able to retain their light weight in wet and dry conditions.

The early footballs were not made that way. They came in two parts: rubber inner tubes, often called bladders, and leather outer casings. The inner tube had a four to six-inch-long nipple. There were five-inch openings in the outer casing through which the inner tube was inserted. The balls were then inflated until they ‘felt right’ and the nipples were bent over and tied to prevent the air from escaping. The nipples were stuffed into the outer casings, which were then laced tightly shut. In wet conditions the already heavy leather balls became water-soaked which made them even heavier. This heavy football was the type used when the game was first introduced to Trinidad.

Cricket was well established, with competitions taking place in Trinidad from as early as 1869. When football was introduced, a "football season" was identified to minimize conflicts with the firmly established game of cricket.

In those early days, football was played almost exclusively by the local whites and the Scotsmen and Irishmen who brought the game with them when they came out to serve in the Colony. Their influence was reflected in the names and composition of the early teams: Clydesdale, Shamrock and Casuals.

The popularity of football grew very fast and soon the game was being played in San Fernando as well as in Port of Spain, the town in which it was first played.

Travel between Port of Spain and San Fernando was mainly by boat but that did not prevent Casuals from visiting San Fernando as early as 1905 or for a team from the Borough travelling to Port of Spain. The teams and their spectators also undertook greater challenges, with Clydesdale making a tour to British Guiana in that year. It was the first Trinidad football team to go on an overseas tour.

By 1908 there were seven football teams playing actively in Port of Spain and they included the two colleges, St. Mary’s and Queen’s Royal College. There was a growing need for an authority to control the sport. The Trinidad Amateur Football Association was formed on July 23, 1908 and assumed the responsibility for organizing football in the Colony. T.A.F.A began its first season of competition with a match between Clydesdale and Casuals on September 19, 1908.

From that very first year, the fixtures of the Association were arranged to include a competition between the two POS colleges with the winner receiving the Deckle Cup. Thus was born the annual competition to determine the top college football team. This competition became known simply as Intercol. “These Intercol games were first instituted in 1908, when Queen Royal College registered the first lien on the Inter-Collegiate. St. Mary’s won the succeeding year and the royals again won in 1910.” This Cup was won outright by St Mary’s College in 1922 and was replaced by the Alexander Clarke Cup.

The Q.R.C boys had successes of their own. “Queens Royal College have established a record in the history of local sport, which may remain unequaled for some time” when in 1933 they scored a double. Q.R.C won both the T.A.F.A. First League Football Championship when they defeated Shamrock and the First Class Cricket Championship when they got the better of Shannon to take the Bonanza Cup.

Intercol was not introduced to the south until 1935 since from 1894 to 1930 there was only one college in San Fernando – Naparima.

However, organized football was played in San Fernando from much earlier. An article published in the Port of Spain Gazette of April 1907 said: “If later on the game of football becomes one of the popular pastimes of the fold in the Southern Borough, the credit will be due to the efforts of Messrs. R. A. Torrance and Romer Johnstone, who within late have got teams together on Paradise Savanna, where these instructors are moulding some "raw recruits" into fairly good players.” The “raw recruits” were providing entertainment for the burgesses as the same newspaper noted that “At 5 o'clock this afternoon there will be some fun at Paradise Savanna, San Fernando, when two local football teams will meet.”

The Trinidad Amateur Football Association was formed in 1908 to organize football competition in Port of Spain; and, not to be out done, by the following year the Southern Amateur Football Association was organizing competitions of its own in San Fernando, to become the second organized football body in Trinidad. Naparima College was one of the original members of S.A.F.A. with the other teams being: Mascott, Boy Scout, Southern, Philharmonic, Planters and La Pique. Of the original member team, Naparima is the only one that is still playing football today. Naparima College thus proudly holds the distinction of being the oldest football team in South Trinidad.

Organized football in San Fernando was played in The Tray, which had become the centre of football activity in the Borough. It was here that most of the S.A.F.A. matches were played. The Tray was the name given to the playing field located in Paradise Pasture on lands where the Naparima Bowl now stands. It housed a cosy little football ground, which was rimmed by large dongs trees that provided shade for the spectators while producing bountiful harvests of some of the largest and sweetest dongs in San Fernando. S.A.F.A. also played some of its matches on the Ste Madeleine grounds.

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