FIFTY Primary Schools teams comprising boys and girls between the ages nine to 13 participated on the second day of the Scotiabank CONCACAF NextPlay Cup at the TTFA Home of Football training fields on Saturday morning.
One of the new Home of Football training pitches was put to use for the first time in a competitive environment as eight small-sided fields were set-up for matches to run simultaneously over four hours of play on each day.
The atmosphere was fun-filled with close to 1,000 youngsters engaging in healthy competition on the pitches and forging new relationships off it. Teams of 10 players are competing in a 7v7 format, divided between urban and rural regions, each further subdivided into eight groups of seven teams. The top two teams from each group will play in the final round of 16 on the final day on December 1. Action continues on Wednesday at the TTFA Home of Football.
The NextPlay Cup is a new invitational youth tournament introduced by the Confederation, playing between November 10 - December 8, across the four territories of CONCACAF Member Associations, including the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica and TT. This pan-regional Scotiabank competition, held in collaboration with each of the participating Member Associations, is a new pillar of CONCACAF NextPlay, a comprehensive grassroots development programme that promotes access to football within the region, while leveraging the power of the game to drive social change.
The primary partners of the tournament are the TTFA and the Ministry of the Education who have approved the schools’ participation with the aim of creating a unified competition that promotes the practice of sports and transcends national, cultural, and socio-economic barriers.
TTFA Technical Director Anton Corneal spoke on Saturday about the enthusiasm showed by the schools involved including the kids and teachers and other stakeholders.
“It is a pilot project and we are one of four countries chosen by CONCACAF to host. The location is an amazing one because we can go on to grow this project. The first one includes fifty schools and we plan to double this in a year’s time,” Corneal told TTFA Media.
“It is a project started to target players ages ten and eleven so it may not be a Primary Schools representative player involved – which is an Under-13 player – but it’s targeting the age group just below. The objective here is really to grow participation especially with girls and we have insisted that there are three girls in every group of ten players so that there are girls playing in every match.”
Defender Jamal Jemmot, 11, son of ex-TT midfielder Kerwyn “Hardest” Jemmot was among the players representing St Crispin AC. He beamed with excitement after completing the day’s play on Saturday.
“I play in defence. I loved this position and I enjoy playing because I am really good at it. The experience is very, very good so far. I am here to play with two of my best friends in school. My dad has influenced me a lot and I watched videos of him on Youtube. He is a midfielder but I am a defender,” Jemmot said.
“This tournament is helping me with discipline and production and one day I will like to play for the national team like my father,” he added.