Once again last Saturday’s press launch for the 2012 Veterans Football Tournament organized by the Caricom Masters Sports Club in association with Blackheart Productions was a stylish, grand affair. With that in mind, the William Jefferson Clinton Ballroom at Sandals Grande was the perfect venue for the occasion.
The guest list was also impressive with the likes of President of the Senate, Claudius Francis who was the MC; Minister for Commerce Business Development Investment and Consumer Affairs, Emma Hippolyte; Minister for Youth Development and Sports, Shawn Edward; President of the St Lucia Football Association (SLFA), Lyndon Cooper; and Chairman of the Organizing Committee, Alvin Malaykhan.
In welcoming everyone, Malaykhan spoke about the importance of this veterans tournament and where it’s headed.
“We are looking forward to the challenges and the opportunities our future brings,” he said:“We are looking forward to establishing ourselves in the area of veterans football development in St Lucia as a forward thinking, progressive organization, that continues to maintain the old fashion principle of caring for those who make things happen.”
Minister Edward views the veterans football tournament as a competition that appeals to his ministry and sportsmen of the past.
He said: “This is a very important occasion for my ministry because for several years now, people in the sports fraternity have been calling for organized competition among the sportsmen and women of yesteryear. Whereas veteran competitions form part of the permanent fixture of activities in neighbouring territories, we struggled in St Lucia to have football, cricket, netball etc for our sportsmen of the past.”
With that in mind, Edward is extremely pleased to be associated with the tournament which he said: “Is pretty much in keeping with the mandate of our government, where a concerted effort is being made to encourage St Lucians of all ages to partake in physical activity, to partake in sport with a view to giving birth to a nation that is healthy and productive where we look after ourselves.”
In an attempt to raise the level of football, Cooper who is President of the SLFA spoke about cooperation, fine tuning and merging every form of football played here.
He mentioned organizing veterans football to a level where it can be part and parcel of SLFA football. Cooper suggested merging the SLFA and veterans football under one umbrella.
The SLFA prez pointed out that it makes no sense for veterans football to compete for the same pie by begging the same set of people for sponsorship.
He told the gathering, “we need to cooperate and we need to bring together our resources to ensure organized football takes us where it needs to go.”
In closing Cooper extended an invitation to participating teams and the organizers, to consider organizing veterans football into a full fledged league. If that happens, Cooper said “it is my desire to get my organization to pledge in excess of $40,000 to your organization.”
Minister Hippolyte while acknowledging Gros Islet has the best facilities in St Lucia with veterans being among the beneficiaries, spoke of her concerns as the parliamentary representative for Gros Islet. Effectively managing those facilities particularly playing fields is top on her list of priorities.
“It is one thing to have a sporting tournament but you need to take ownership of the facilities around you,” she said. “There must be a role for the community and persons like you to ensure we use the facilities properly.”
Hippolyte congratulated veteran football players for keeping the sport alive and sticking to it.
The tournament will officially be kicked off Sunday at the Beausejour Cricket Ground.