2014 schoolboy football season a bag of opportunities
THIS newspaper can only concur with Mr Carlo Redwood, of schoolboy football title sponsors LIME, that "it is hard to believe a year has gone so quickly".
Believe it or not, just a week remains before the start of the 2014 Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) LIME Manning and daCosta Cup competitions.
We well recall last year when Jamaica College (JC) and St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) dominated the urban and rural scenes. In the end, a gifted JC easily overcame STETHS in the all-island, two-way Olivier Shield.
Many of the leading players from last year will have left school, moving on to face the challenge of adulthood in various directions, including professional football and higher studies.
The expectation among football lovers will be that the feast to come over the next three months will at least equal the quality of last season.
In that regard, this newspaper, as it always does, wishes to hail the companies which have put up their money to support young talent. Jamaicans should bear in mind that LIME is continuing its five-year deal, worth $150 million, which began a year ago. Associate sponsors Wisynco, through its Bigga brand, and Burger King should also accept our gratitude.
One hundred and thirteen schools across the island are involved in this season's competition, and there are a few alterations to previous years.
We are told that the Olivier Shield will now be a one-off game and that the rural knockout Ben Francis Cup will involve just the top four teams instead of the zone winners as was the previous arrangement.
In the 75-school daCosta Cup, inter-zone runners-up will also advance with the eight group winners for a quarter-final round of 16 teams, instead of eight previously.
While it wasn't mentioned at Thursday's launch, this newspaper understands that there is to be a major announcement of an elite, all-island competition involving the top teams from both daCosta and Manning Cup.
We anxiously await details of those plans.
Organisers will be careful, we are sure, to ensure that the schedule is not so packed that the players end up being overworked.
We hope, too, that there will be continuing attention paid to the state of playing surfaces for the schoolboy competitions. We have said it often, but we think it is worth repeating, that some fields on which our young footballers are asked to display their skills are disgraceful.
Finally, over the years there has been marked improvement in terms of the behaviour of football fans at schoolboy games. That trend, we expect, will continue this year. However, local organisers and the police must remain absolutely vigilant.