FIVE former champions Anse la Raye, Dennery, Gros Islet, Mabouya Valley and Micoud will be in action when the 17th edition of the Blackheart Production / Saint Lucia Football Association (SLFA) Inc. Knockout Football Tournament kicks off today (Saturday 14th September 2019) at the Phillip Marcellin Ground (PMG) in Vieux Fort.
With EC$30,000.00 at stake for the champion team, the stage is now set as organisers continue “uniting communities through football.”
Today, from 6.00 p.m. former champions Dennery will open their campaign against Mon Repos and Desruisseaux will play Anse la Raye at 8.00 p.m.
Tomorrow, (Sunday 15th) from 6.00 p.m. South Castries takes on Mabouya Valley and at 8.00 p.m. in an all former champions derby, Micoud will play Gros Islet.
The tournament takes a two day break (Monday 16th/Tuesday17th) and resumes Wednesday evening with another two matches at the PMG in Vieux Fort.
From 6.00 p.m. Central Castries plays Roseau Valley and at 8.00 p.m. Vieux Fort North will go up against La Clery.
On Thursday 19th, from 6.00 p.m., Marchand, the SLFA Island Cup defending champions will fancy their chances when they meet Babonneau and Canaries plays Soufriere at 8.00 p.m.
The official launch and tournament draw took place on Tuesday evening at the Marina Haven Hotel. Present were Blackheart Production CEO David Christopher, Sports Minister Edmund Estaphane, SLFA President Lyndon Cooper, SLFA General Secretary Victor Reid, Tournament Director VictorinLawrencin, Tournament Analyst Tennyson Glasgow, representatives from the various participating districts leagues, teams and some of the sponsors – Flow, Blue Waters, The National Lotteries Authority, WLBL, Harris Paints, Veterans in Sports Inc. (Saint Lucia Insurance), Saint Lucia Distillers and members of the media.
CEO of Blackheart Production David Christopher acknowledged the various sponsors that are on board this year, especially Flow, the platinum sponsor and the local media for helping to make the Blackheart tournament possible.
“This is the time of year everybody waits for the Blackheart tournament,” Christopher noted. “This is when you see the economical spin off where a number of individuals benefit financially; the barber shops, the boutiques, the vendors, the mini bus operators and hotels. It’s not about Blackheart making money, this is what you call togetherness, where we bring everything together and share like Santa Claus.”
He stated, “Last year when we checked the statistics from the Minister responsible for Security, Hermangild Francis, based on information received, the crime rate always go down when Blackheart comes around, because everybody is focused on sports, no time to be idle.”
Christopher added, “The tournament has taken a different turn this year; Blackheart was engaged to the SLFA, this year we got married. We are working together to reach the mandate of the SLFA. The tournament must meet 90 games, so what we did this year, we incorporated Blackheart in the SLFA National Lottery Authority/Island Cup and made it one family.”
According to Christopher, there are different components in the tournament; the Island Cup prepared the teams for the Blackheart tournament (in the past Blackheart would have a series of warmup matches). Secondly, the SLFA/Blackheart selected the top four teams from the two groups in the Island Cup to participate in the Big 8. The Big 8 is out of the way, brought to life last weekend at the PMG; Gros Islet came out on top with a 2 – 1 win over Canaries.
Christopher said, “We are going with all 19 affiliates of the SLFA with the exclusion of Choiseul; the first round of competition will see 16 teams doing battle. In the second round, last year’s champion team Vieux Fort South and losing finalist Laborie will enter to make it ten teams. The ten teams will compete to take it down to five. The five teams will play a round robin and the best four will move to the semifinal round.”
Lyndon Cooper, SLFA President said, “Blackheart 2019 and for the last five years is a family that has brought joy and happiness to the SLFA; but our responsibility and role remains the same and that is to organise every area of the sport and get to the next World Cup. We have an obligation to re-examine the structure of football in Saint Lucia and 2019 is no exception.”
He said, “We have to get at least 90 games from every competition in order for us to maintain our development programme within the clubs and districts. The SLFA will continue on that path for the remainder of this year into 2020 to make the necessary changes to ensure the game continues to develop.”
Sports Minister Edmund Estaphane said, “The premier football on island should be the district football championship and no matter how you cut it, this is where you will get the following, all the sponsors will come up and put their bids, the following (sports enthusiasts), the vendors and the bus drivers will make money. As a government we want this type of economic activity everywhere in Saint Lucia. So what do we do? We have to partner with the SLFA and provide the necessary sporting facilities in the respective communities.”
The Minister said, “By 2020 we will have more sporting facilities where a team will able to have home games and at home you should have an advantage, but as it stands right now, we have playing fields and they are not in good condition; we have fields and they are not fenced, you cannot collect an entrance fee at the gate, in fact there is no gate. The government believes this is keeping the sport backward. We are now embarking on this sports infrastructure development programme and in every region/district we will have a proper football field, there will be no cricket played on that football facility and the same goes for the cricket.”
Meanwhile, the following sponsors, Flow – Michel Louisy, Saint Lucia Distillers – Sergin John Baptiste, WLBL – Rohan Lovence and Blue Waters – Christy Augustus all echoed similar sentiments towards this year’s tournament, and as they asked members of the various communities to come out to support the biggest party in football, they also pledged their company’s continued support for years to come.