THE Headquarters of the Saint Lucia Football Association was a hive of activity on Tuesday 2nd October 2018, as the SLFA forged another partnership with three organisations to ensure the continued development of Primary School Football in Saint Lucia.
Present at this all important press launch were the SLFA President – Lyndon Cooper, SLFA General Secretary – Victor Reid, other staff members of the SLFA, FIFA Development Coordinator – Malaika Church, CONCACAF Programme Manager- Howard Mc Intosh, DEO – Ministry of Education – Cyrus Cepal, School Sports Coordinator – Isabel Marquis, National Lotteries Authority representative – Ligorious Marquis, District Coordinator – Christopher Duncan, PE Teachers and students from the eight districts.
It is estimated that over 750 aspiring footballers will compete at the district level representing 79 Primary Schools where they will be exposed to the rudiments of football. It is also expected that each of the eight educational districts will fill in a representative team that will compete against each other.
The Primary Schools Programme will also see coaches being assigned to the districts who will work alongside the various teams and districts leading up to the championship.
The SLFA will lend support to the various schools on a one on one basis to ensure that they maintain and further develop football throughout the year.
The SLFA Inc. is able to undertake this important programme through funding from FIFA and CONCACAF and more importantly through the development of the coaches that have been trained to undertake the preparation of the players in the schools.
District Coordinator – Christopher Duncan in his opening remarks said, “We all share an interest in football, if FIFA would have its own way, football would be the only sport on the universe. FIFA has mandated its affiliates to do everything possible to develop the sport of football. We must acknowledge, the children are the future and whatever focus we are going to place on development we have to place on children”.
“Football can foster nation building, discipline that children need to nature themselves as they grow into athletes and well-grounded citizens”.
DEO in the Ministry of Education, Cyrus Cepal said, “We have been saying all along sports is the motivation that will energized students in order to produce the academics. I strongly believe sports is the number one factor”.
“I am making an appeal to all schools, educators, principals, DEOs, we have to facilitate the sports programme where we are going to integrate sports with the academics, and the two must go together. When we give the children that privilege they will excel; and the by product of that is to ensure the all the schools do well”.
Speaking at the launch FIFA Development Coordinator Malaika Church said, “We have seen an awakening of interest and support for youths involved in the sport on the island and this is clearly exhibited by the types of entities involved in this event”.
She said, “The Association has shown over the years that Youth Football continues to remain an important area. Through funding provided by FIFA, the SLFA has been able to develop all aspects of football thus providing more opportunities for the next generation of footballers”.
“The assistance provided under the FIFA Forward Programme has enabled the Association to improve the way it develops and supports Football Island wide”.
“Globally, we have seen the benefits football continues to play in the development of a nation and the important values that can be learnt from being involved in such positive activity”. noted Church.
Howard McIntosh, Programme Manager for the One CONCACAF said, “What we have to do now is to put the correct emphasis in the right place; the emphasis really now has to be with the youth. We live in a period of uncommon opportunity in many ways. Football cannot work without partnership, who you see sitting here, You see the government, the media, the SLFA, the sponsors; it cannot work without this partnership and it cannot work without the parents and the players, all coming together to take advantage of this opportunity”.
Now you have an opportunity and it is tournaments like these that give you that opportunity, you can pursue education through football, you can pursue a career through sports.
“Saint Lucia is lucky because you have a model of collaboration and cooperation between the government and football that really truly does not exist in many places, you are lucky. I always tell people that the models that exist in Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago are two models if the rest of the Caribbean follow World Cup is going to be easy and when I say World Cup I am speaking about the different levels, U15, U17, U20, Olympic and Seniors, we need to take advantage of this uncommon opportunity that exist”
McIntosh took the time out to wish all the organizers and the players well. “Continue to work together, continue this collaboration, and support the SLFA efforts. One of the reasons why CONCACAF is fully in support of the SLFA is because of the tremendous work they are doing”. noted McIntosh.
School Sports Coordinator, Isabel Marquis said, “For the past four years the Districts look forward to this tournament as it serves to bring athletes, coaches, teachers and spectators from the eight education districts out to lend support to their respective teams. The holistic development of our island’s young athletes is one of our priorities as we seek to foster a spirit of cooperation among our student athletes”.
The tournament enables us to identify talented young student athletes for development and it is our responsibility to give them our unwavering support as they develop.
“We cannot overlook the invaluable sponsorship of sponsors as without them it would be difficult to produce this tournament. Their contribution is an indication of the value they place on the sport”.
“We are aware that participating in sport not only benefit body and mind but encourages the spirit of healthy competition and build self-esteem”. said Marquis.
SLFA President Lyndon Cooper said, “It’s a historical day for the SLFA, it’s a new direction, a new partnership with a few key stakeholders and that signifies the beginning of a long term partnership”.
I want to capture the imagination of the players present and to reassure them that there is hope in both education and football. We have already committed ourselves to ensuring the two work hand in hand and once we can do that it means we are on the continuous path as to where we want to go.
This is not the brain child of the SLFA, it’s the brain child of the Ministries of Education and the Department of Youth Development and Sports, what the SLFA did was to approach the two ministries and the PE Teachers to spell out a new path.
It’s an indication people are now understanding what the journey is and where we want to go as the SLFA and country.
I also want to indicate that the concept behind our change in direction is a very simple one, we found ourselves in 2018 playing under -14 football at the regional level, something we have not done in the past. We have to decide if we have to compete internationally at the age of 14, it means we must begin preparation at least three years in advance and our only way out of the current situation is to sell the concept of a partnership between the two ministries and the SLFA.
I want to leave no doubt in the mind of the DEO; the SLFA’s intention in 2019 is to ensure all 79 primary schools participate in primary school football. Immediately following this competion we are going to put together a task force who’s going to ensure we come up with a plan that is going to see the participation of all primary schools in the 2019 edition.
I have already gotten the commitment from FIFA that they are going to approach CARICOM from a regional standpoint and to engage the ministers of Education and Sports to ensure FIFA invest heavily in primary schools football.
At the end the eight district team were be presented with a set of uniforms that will be used during this stage of the championship.