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ISSA schoolboy football season kicks off September 7

Thursday, August 22, 2019

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NEW Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) President Keith Wellington says a “special” 2019 schoolboy football season is on the cards, as time winds down to the September 7 start of competitive action.

Wellington, a long-time vice-president to former boss Dr Walton Small, took office in mid-June, and faces his first test as the man in charge when the prestigious daCosta Cup and Manning Cup competitions get going.

“I feel as if this is going to be special; I think I have the support of my colleagues and I have been offering as much support as I can,” he told the Jamaica Observer, following yesterday's launch at Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel.

“I've been involved in schoolboy football for a while, but there is a difference when the final thing rests on your head, so you want to ensure that every 'I' is dotted and every 'T' is crossed.

“We expect that this will be a great season. We have been trying to ensure that football is a lot more than what takes place on the field for our students. So we have been trying to do things with our various partners to enhance the development of student football on and off the field,” Wellington, the St Elizabeth Technical High School principal, added.

Clarendon College are reigning champions of the rural area daCosta Cup, while Kingston College are their counterparts in the urban area Manning Cup. Clarendon College secured the double when they beat Kingston College in the Olivier Shield play-off, which symbolises all-island schoolboy football supremacy.

The Champions Cup, which is competed amongst the top rural and urban area teams, is held by Cornwall College.

Charlemont High and Hydel High are respective holders of the rural area Ben Francis Cup and urban Walker Cup knockout titles, after organisers controversially modified both competitions last season in a way which ruled out a number of the stronger teams.

Yesterday, Linvern Wright, chairman of the daCosta Cup competition, announced minor tweaks, but conceded that the best performing teams this season will not get the opportunity to vie for their respective knockout crowns.

With obvious reference to minimising player burnout, he stressed that ISSA's commitment over the course of the three-month season is to ensure “players are rested for at least 72 hours between games”.

Wright noted that hosting matches on the best possible fields is a major focus.

“We continue to commit to the best surfaces available, especially for match-ups from the second round [onward]. Our patrons and players deserve no less,” he said.

Jamaica Football Federation President Michael Ricketts urged players to give of their best.

“I'm encouraging the youngsters to be at their best, [and] stay focused because if you have the requisite skills then you must have the mental strength to ensure that you get as much as you can from the sport.

“We all are aware of the impact that schoolboy football would have had on the Jamaican public over the years. I do believe that the quality last year was good, intensity was of the highest level and like I've said, we've underestimated the social and commercial value of football,” Ricketts told the Observer.

William Mahfood, chairman of Wisynco, the parent company of Wata, the Champions Cup and the daCosta Cup title sponsor, boasted that the brand continues to foster togetherness across Jamaica.

“With Wata we are able to inspire, engage and energise both the local and diaspora communities to encourage the spirit of camaraderie, sportsmanship and a general love for the game,” he said.

Elon Parkinson, public relations and communications manager at Digicel, the main sponsor for the Manning Cup, noted the impact that former Reggae Boyz football star Ricardo Fuller has had mentoring students since taking on the role as schoolboy football ambassador since last season.

“Ricardo has really brought a truly higher level of energy and enthusiasm to the competition. With his leadership and mentorship sessions last year we were able to bring a lot of coaches, a lot of players [to grasp] how the game is played an at even higher level,” he said.

— Sanjay Myers


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