By E. Glenford Prescott ([email protected])
St. Vincent and the Grenadines will join other Caribbean countries as part of the fast-growing Annual Hamilton Lashley Human Development Foundation (HLHDF) Caribbean Children’s Charity Shield Football Classic when it hosts the event in August this year.
This was disclosed by president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation Venold Coombs at a recent media conference, which was also attended by representatives of the HLHDF Tricia Browne and Anderson “Bells” Parris.
The Caribbean Children’s Charity Shield Football Classic, which was started in Barbados in 2014, has also been held in Trinidad and Tobago and last year in Guyana.
Coombs said that when he was approached about hosting the tournament he had no hesitation since he has always been for the development of youth football and saw this as another positive route for that advancement.
“I believe in developing youth structure and when I was contacted, I told these people that we would come on board because everyone knows about my record where youth football is concerned and this event falls squarely into that,” he said.
He said that the SVGFF will provide resources at its disposal to make the tournament a success and has already set up a local organising committee, headed by Devron Poyer of the SVGFF.
The Caribbean Children Charity Shield Football Classic was started as a joint initiative between Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana and was designed for Under 15 and Under 17 football clubs in communities where youths were stigmatised and marginalised, Secretary of the HLHDF Browne who has been with the programme from its inception explained.
She said that Caribbean Children Charity Shield Football Classic is a powerful tool used to strengthen social ties, promote individual and economic development. In addition, it also seeks to promote ideals of peace and to stop discrimination against at-risk communities.
Parris, extolling the virtue of such an initiative, said that he is an example how such programmes can make a change in the lives of young people.
“I can attest to the benefits of these types of programmes because, as a young man, I lived in a community where violence and crimes were an everyday occurrence. This type of environment could have seen me spending my life in prison or even dead the way things were going,” Parris said.
He said that his life took a positive turn when he made a chance contact with a gentleman who had a positive influence on him from then.
“It was while all this was happening that I met Mr. Hamilton Lashley and I have not left his side from that day onto now. That meeting has allowed me not only to change my own life but [also] assist me in impacting positively on the lives of some others”.
Lashley, a former government minister in Barbados, is the government’s social policy advisor.
The 2017 edition of the tournament will see teams competing in three divisions as against two of the previous three years. The SVG phase will now see teams battling each other for honours in U15, U17 and the inaugural Under 13.
Browne said they expect over 600 young footballers representing teams from across the region to take part in this year’s tournament.
Last year’s competition saw 22 clubs taking part with 12 from the host country Guyana, six from Barbados and four from T&T.
Browne said that this year they are expecting 11 clubs from Barbados, 10 from Trinidad and Tobago, three from Guyana as well as representatives from St. Lucia and Suriname. Coombs said the SVGFF will be looking to put as many clubs as possible on the field in the Aug. 15 to 20 tournament.
Among the objectives for the 2017 tournament is the possible inclusion of a girl’s teams for the first time as well as to involve as many Caribbean countries as possible, Browne said.
The HLHDF Secretary lamented the high airfares currently being offered by regional airline LIAT as a deterrent in more teams making the trip. She expressed the hope of a possible reduction in such cost, which will result in more young children being able to travel, and foster friendships, which could be life changing.
Browne said the feedback from prospective sponsors and stakeholders in St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been “very encouraging and positive” and expressed confidence that the tournament will be successful.