Saint Lucia is set to host a major youth soccer event, later this year –through the collaborative input of the Free Kick Foundation and other corporate and public entities.
The initiative, conceptualized by the management of Free Kick Foundation is due to be held by mid-year and will involve a host of the best skillful young players from countries, globally. Dubbed the ‘International Youth Cup’, the inaugural tournament is slated for this July, to be held at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground [DSCG].
Since 2015, Aaron King, CEO of Free Kick Foundation has been involved in the development and promotion of youth football. Through his foundation, numerous opportunities have been afforded to young aspiring male and female footballers to harness their footballing prowess at Colleges in the USA and to attain higher education.
King expressed his enthusiasm for the upcoming sports event, at a press conference this week, while stating that the event is expected to bring out much excitement and thrills for football fans and supporters.
“It gives us an opportunity to pivot what we are doing and how we are doing it, so with the College Player Showcase, one of the things that we saw was the impact that we are having on different pillars in the society,” he declared
“We wanted a platform where we could have a lot more impact in the country,” added King. “So with the Free Kick Youth Cup, scheduled for July, we are going to have an impact; as there is the social impact, the education impact, sporting impact and the sports tourism impact. So with that, we really get the opportunity to impact St Lucia in a lot of different ways.”
Events Company of St Lucia [ECSL] is a major promotional partner in this event, and ECSL Lorraine Sidonie, told reporters that ECSL is pleased to be part of this venture.
Sidonie explained that ECSL was consulted by the Consulate General, in Miami, about the tournament. Following a presentation put on by the Free Kick Foundation, she said, they were “blown away by the objectives, which this tournament and the Foundation are set to achieve.”
She added: “So, it’s one tournament, one event happening but it’s ticking many boxes.”
Sidonie explained that there is a local organizing committee involved in the planning and promotion of the event, including representatives from various agencies and government ministries and with the support and endorsement of the St Lucia Football Association [SLFA] Inc.
“So, its lots of players, lots of key stakeholders putting this event on, but its ECSL – as event partner with the Free Kick Foundation that is pulling the event together through the local organising committee,” she said.
Aaron is the son of former flamboyant national player, Nat King, and with a ‘football fervour’ in his genes, he has transformed that passion for the ‘beautiful game’ into nurturing and mentorship for young athletes.
This tournament will involve a total of 16 teams from around the globe competing for bragging rights, to earn the distinction as first-time winners of the event.
According to reports, interest has been forthcoming from teams as far as Africa, with a select St. Lucian representative team, due to participate in the tournament. The tournament will reportedly be held in a secure Covid – 19 bubble, and more information will be available as the event progresses.
Several sponsors have been attracted to the inaugural tournament as corporate partners, including; Key Coin Assets, Adidas, LUCELEC, Royalton, Bank Of St. Lucia, Bay Gardens, and JQ Charles Group.
According to an SLFA Inc. spokesperson, the association is also expected to “come on board in a very big way.”
The 16 teams will be placed into four Groups, where they will compete in a single round-robin qualifier with the top two teams from each group progressing to the quarter, semi and final round. The DSCG will be transformed into two separate playing zones, to facilitate two matches being played simultaneously.
During the upcoming Easter vacation, King is expected to be on the island, and along with the SLFA Inc., will be organising a District Youth competition. The winner of this competition will represent St. Lucia at the inaugural International Youth Football Cup.
Prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic; during the summer break in specified countries, Free Kick Foundation organized Trial Showcases annually in St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, and Antigua, where coaches would scout for talent on display during a one-day intense session.
At the conclusion of these trial sessions, the more formidable players received partial and or full scholarships to Colleges in the U SA. Approximately 90 young male and female players from six Caribbean countries have benefited from this all-important initiative. The data estimates an overall figure of 65% male and 35% female involved in the programme with St. Lucia accounting for 52% of these numbers.
To date, several players have reaped the benefits and graduated with various Degrees and with Dean’s and First Class Honours to their credit.
According to an official, the SLFA Inc. “is indeed grateful for the life changes that Free Kick Foundation has impacted and are continuing to provide for these young aspiring footballers.”