THE Youth Football League's (YFL) Junior Cup is here and will see Jamaica's primary and preparatory schools competing in seven-versus-seven football matches over five weekends, starting October 1.
The tournament will be staged by Free Your Image (FYI) Consultancy Group, in partnership with the Institute of Sports (INSPORTS), and the Jamaica Independent Schools Association (JISA).
For Paula Pinnock, FYI's managing director, the main drive to stage this tournament is about development.
"We believe that the need for the YFL goes beyond just simply developing footballers, but instead, we want to develop the individual," Pinnock said at the tournament's official launch at Funland, Hope Gardens in St Andrew last Thursday.
"The physical, the mental, and the emotional health of an athlete is paramount to their success on and off the field, and we see it over and over again. We talk about it but what are we doing about it? What makes us different is that using the skills we have garnered over the years as a team, we will seek to develop well-rounded boys and girls and prepare them for life beyond football," she added
FYI will also establish mentorship programmes, coaching clinics, college planning, and workshops to supplement the growth of all teams' personnel.
INSPORTS Officer Elaine Walker-Brown says that she appreciates the efforts of this tournament to foster the growth of Jamaica's youth through football.
"I want Jamaica to understand that we all have our part to play in mentoring our children," she said.
"Remember, Jamaica is a brand — it's not just the Reggae Girlz and the Reggae Boyz. In whatever way we can play our part in helping our youngsters to develop, once you put them on the football field, they're gonna do well so we have to prepare them to be on the big stage. On behalf of the Institute of Sport, I am pleased."
The competition's 48 teams will consist of 672 players 11 years old and younger. Players must be regular students enrolled in the upcoming academic year. Each team will register a minimum of 10 players and a maximum of 14 players, whether male or female, for participation.
These teams will be divided into two brackets — Kingston and Montego Bay. They will be placed in regions with four zones each, comprising both primary and preparatory schools. The top two teams will advance to the quarter-final stage of the competition, which will take an elimination format. Teams advancing from the semi-finals move unto the regional final, while the other semi-finalists will play for third place. The winners of each region then meet in a national championship while the runners-up will play to determine third place.
Registration starts on August 18 and ends on September 16, with the live draw for the zones on September 22.
JISA Sports Coordinator Winston Keys says this tournament is needed.
"At this time, it doesn't matter how much football is being played now, we're always gonna need more for the little ones," he said. "The little ones need to be engaged. Once, you only had the Institute of Sports running the primary schools competition, and JISA running a competition for the prep schools.
Now we realise that a number of clubs and schools are running competitions.
"We are very pleased to endorse a competition like this. We always look forward to work with persons who are running competitions in a certain way, in a decent way, that we see that it fits, that we can engage our children here."
The Youth Football League Junior Cup is sponsored by Puma, iPrint Digital Jamaica, Insurance Company
of the West Indies, JISA, The Gleaner, INSPORTS, Sports Development Foundation, Funland Jamaica, and FYI.