Due to unstable weather conditions, soccer fans will have to wait a little longer for the start of this highly anticipated ‘Bumper Season’ as the Blackheart Football Tournament, which was scheduled to kick off this weekend, has been temporarily postponed.
Organisers, sponsor representatives, officials from the Ministry of Youth and Sports and district team reps turned out Wednesday for the media launch and draw.
With annual ‘widely popular’ inter-district knockout football competition resuming after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the major stakeholders are eagerly pushing forward for another exciting event.
While admitting to the challenges faced in rolling out another event, CEO of Blackheart Productions, David “Shakes” Christopher was nonetheless pleased with the support that has been forthcoming , even though with limitations. He said some seasoned sponsors had pulled out due to ‘financial constraints’, but acknowledged the input of some new sponsors to the ‘Blackheart Family’ train.
This year, added Christopher, the organisers have strategically spread the tournament matches to other venues island wide, after the event was held solely in the south and at the Phillip Marcellin Grounds [PMG], during the last competition.
He said that they were trying to get the tournament back on track and “to do it right for the people.”
“Our goal this year is to keep the sport alive …where we can ensure that the footballers really get the chance to exhibit their skills and ability,” declared Christopher.
Noting the influx of younger footballers participating in the tournament, he said, there were “many new faces on the pitch” with a number of U-15, U-18 players “coming through …as a lot of the older players move away from the game or move on.”
The Blackheart Football boss added , “ So there is a new crop of players we will be seeing this year and it is exciting , as these young players bring lots of excitement to the game and play with much passion and enthusiasm.
“So, you’re in for a ‘bumper tournament’ this year with the kind (level) of football that we see transpiring, presently.”
The St Lucia Football Association [SLFA] Inc. representative, 2nd Vice-President Charde Desir said the unit was pleased to “endorse the tournament”, in much the same way that the association has supported Blackheart Football from its inception in 1997.
Sports Minister Kenson Casimir spoke keenly about the “rejuvenation of sports” on the island. He described the resumption of the annual tournament as “the heartbeat of sports in our communities.”
Casimir declared, “This tournament has nurtured some of the best players in the region …and we needed to ensure that we vigorously continue” to promote the event.
The Gros Islet MP hinted at the formation of a ‘Semi-Pro Football League’ in Saint Lucia, in the coming years.
Speaking on the projections for the future, Casimir noted, “We have gone through, perhaps the most difficult times in our country’s history and we need every opportunity we can (get) to engage young people.”
Speaking on the different measures taken by government, and underlining the establishment of the ‘Youth Economy’ initiative to be better able to meet the needs of young people, Casimir asserted: “Through the Youth Economy (initiative), we are going to see for the first time in the history of (sports) in Saint Lucia…the establishment in the year 2023 /2024 – a Semi Professional Football League in Saint Lucia.”
He added, “This investment in a semi-professional league will ensure that footballers from across the country …could at least get a little salary at the end of the month for their efforts.”
The sports minister said coaches will be compensated and also psychotherapists, while the media and other stakeholders get involved in the mix in a major way.
Meanwhile, due to unstable weather conditions, SLFA Assistant General Secretary, Evastus Augustin issued the following statement.
“The 16 teams scheduled to play in the 2022 SLFA Inc. /Blackheart Knockout Football competition were determined at the Press Launch and Fixtures draw convened on Wednesday September 26 at the Gros Islet Human Resource Development Centre.
However, due to incessant downpours’, meteorology forecasts, and cautions to the populace of flash floods and other phenomena; the weekend games October 1-3, arranged to be played at the La Resource Playing Field, Mabouya Valley, as advertised has of necessity, been postponed.
An earlier inspection of the La Resource Playing field, one of the venues for the tournament, due to its marshy and water-logged condition was deemed unsuitable for play.”
In the meantime, the SLFA stated that the fixtures for the SLFA/Blackheart knockout tournament would be circulated on Friday September, 30.
The draw for the opening round matches, is as follows:
Vieux Fort South vs. Canaries, Micoud vs. Gros Islet
Mabouya Valley vs. Anse la Raye, Marchand vs. South Castries
La Clery vs. Babonneau, Dennery vs. Central Castries
Soufriere vs. V Fort North, Desruisseaux vs. Laborie.