Following a grand press launch last Saturday at the Sandals Regency Golf Resort and Spa, the Veterans in Sports Inc Veterans (VIS Inc) Football Tournament kicks off this weekend at the Phillip Marcellin Grounds in Vieux Fort.
The press launch was a classy affair. Key individuals associated in one way or another with the 2017-2018 tournament were in attendance. Seated in the head table was Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, Donavan Williams; CEO, Vis Inc, Alvin Malaykhan; President of the St Lucia Football Association, Lyndon Cooper; First Vice President of the St Lucia Football Association, Emmanuel Bellas; Mario Isidore of Caribbean Alliance Insurance; Peter and Company official, Ed Mathurin; Sergin John Baptiste of St Lucia Distillers, Flow Representative, Terry Finisterre and Representatives from the various teams.
During his welcome remarks, CEO of Veterans in Sports Inc Alvin Malaykhan declared, “What will unfold in the next couple of months, will be a Veterans Football Tournament like never before, with 22 teams battling for two championships with 56 matches in all.”
Malaykhan pointed out that VIS Inc have not rested on their laurels, but are open to suggestions from colleagues and sponsors as to how to make the tournament better.
“We came to this press launch because we are curious, because we want to know what other people think about our Veterans Football Movement,” said Malaykhan. “We are all here because we want, in some way to improve that business. The very fact that we have come to this press launch in such numbers shows that we at least have the right attitude.”
He referred to Veterans in Sports Inc as a young organization, which has promoted veterans football in St Lucia for the past three years and pointed out that four years prior to that Caricom Masters was at the helm of Veterans Football. Not anymore! In fact, the tournament has grown by leaps and bounds.
“We have seen the number of teams grow from eight to 16 and now 22,” said the CEO. “Apart from the monetary prizes and spectacular trophies, we have taken champion teams to compete outside St Lucia. We have sponsored many veteran football teams, as well as senior district teams and other youth organizations.”
Malaykhan is proud of the fact Veterans in Sports Inc has achieved international and regional success, having hosted St Lucia’s first ever International Veterans Football Tournament Invitational that attracted teams from England and Dominica.
He paid tribute to key individuals and several sponsors who made the tournament what it is today. Among those mentioned, Fabian “Bunny” Louis, David “Shakes” Christopher and his Blackheart Production team, his right hand, business partner and friend Garvin Niles, Lopez Barthelmy, Rosemarie Lovence, Amantha James, Tennyson Glasgow, and the late great Brian McDonald. In his opinion, “without them there would certainly be no official opening.”
Bellas who gave new meaning to the abbreviation VIS, spoke about Veterans Football with emphasis on the impact it has on communities. He mentioned the progression of this tournament over the years from six to 22 teams, allowing over 700 players to get involved in structured activity to ensure their health is enhanced, the social aspect of the tournament, and the call for more coaches and administrators.”
In closing, Bellas left it up to the audience to read between the lines when he remarked: “If you do not like VIS I am sorry for you, but I personally love VIS.” Nuff said!
Permanent Secretary Williams applauded the efforts of Malaykhan and his team Veterans in Sports Inc and said: “It is not easy year after year, to produce a high quality event and tournament and to create a certain expectation and excitement every single year and they’ve done it.”
Williams dismissed the notion that some view veterans playing sports as “has-beens” and feels this tournament has changed that perception.
Furthermore he told his attentive audience, “Let us demonstrate to everybody that veterans are not has-beens, but are persons who can truly contribute to making our country a great one.”
The tournament gets underway at 3:00 pm today (Saturday) with an official opening ceremony with the first game scheduled for 4:00 pm. The tournament continues Sunday at the same venue.