Sprint icon Bolt pleased with direction of Youth Football League
Sprint icon Usain Bolt and former Reggae Boyz defender Ian "Pepe" Goodison share a photo opportunity with some of the country's young football prospects during the FYI-organised Youth Football League at the Constant Spring football field recently.

Sprint legent Usain Bolt reaffirmed his commitment to doing what he can to be a positive influence on the country, as he once again threw his support behind the FYI Consultancy Group-organised Youth Football League.

Bolt's presence at the recently staged event at Constant Spring football field added to the entertainment value of the country's young prospects, who paraded their skills with much gusto.

With the Junior Youth Cup Under-9 competition geared toward exposing and, by extension, developing the talents of Jamaica's next generation of football stars, it fits in well with the vision of the iconic sprinter's foundation. This vision is to enhance the character of children through educational and cultural development as they live their dreams.

Bolt, a global phenom and one of the country's most recognisable figures, recently suffered significant losses in the ongoing fraud case at investment firm Stocks and Securities Limited (SSL), but remains dedicated to being a beacon of light and hope in the land of his birth.

"I am always happy to support the development of young athletes in Jamaica in any sport. I've always had a special love for football and being able to support this initiative through my foundation is a bonus for me," Bolt declared.

During the day's proceedings, Emmanuel Christian Academy proved a cut above the competition, as they registered 2-0, 1-0 and 6-0 victories over Reach Academy, Sts Peter and Paul Preparatory and Castleton Primary, respectively.

However, Reach Academy had the biggest win of the first round, a 9-0 hammering of Castleton Primary, after being edged 2-3 by Sts Peter and Paul. Sts Peter and Paul also registered a handsome 6-0 win over Castleton.

St Aloysius Primary was also undefeated on the day, beating Hillel Academy and Windward Road Primary 4-1 and 3-0, respectively. Hillel had earlier topped Windward Road Primary 4-1.

The quarter-final, semi-final and final will be contested on March 18.

While his bias was towards manager Nugent Walker's son and his Hillel Academy team, Bolt rooted for all the players, as they gave of their best.

The 36-year-old, who shot to fame by winning eight Olympic titles and 11 World Championships gold medals, while breaking records in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m before retiring in 2017, pointed to the significance of providing a platform to give the aspiring football stars and early start.

"For me, at this stage, it's just fun. It's just fun seeing them enjoying themselves and developing. At a young age you can see the talent and see who will be future footballers. So it's good to start at a young age," said Bolt.

Meanwhile, Paula Pinnock, managing director of FYI Consultancy Group which conceptualised the tournament, was pleased with the outcome and Bolt's continued support.

"Usain Bolt is no stranger to supporting grass-roots football. In fact, when we did a similar initiative in 2013 and 2014, his foundation was a sponsor. We are delighted to have them back on board, and were excited to have him and Reggae Boyz legend Ian "Pepe" Goodison at the venue supporting the young players," Pinnock told the Jamaica Observer.

"The entry was great for the first staging of the Under-9 the young players were excited and energised to perform. It was very clear that many of them watched the World Cup and it was very entertaining to watch them celebrate like their favourite players.

"But, again, the goal is to build awareness that competitive football is not restricted to older children. If we truly want to develop the sport and simultaneously find meaningful ways to engage younger children we must start now," she added.

Sherdon Cowan

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