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After playing with his heart and soul throughout, Akademiks’ goal-scoring hero in the final of the LIME Pelican Football Challenge, Mario Harte knew that his perseverance would pay off in a big way. The highly touted Harte, who was the No.1 draft pick in the tournament, had only scored a solitary goal before Friday’s final against Phoenix UFO Toyota Fire House at Kensington Oval. But he broke a six-match goal-scoring drought with a match-winning goal worth $100 000 and the prestigious trophy as Akademiks won 1-0, leaving Fire House to settle for the second prize of $20 000. “I never gave up. Honestly, I was beginning to get a little frustrated because I realized that I didn’t had any luck throughout the tournament but I continued to play my part in supporting Arantees (Lawrence) and everything worked out in the end,” Harte said. Harte’s 89th minute goal, which was set up by substitute Nicholas Best, triggered scenes of jubilation as elated fans raced on to the field after the match to embrace him, while chanting his name and dubbing him as “Super Mario” and “The Special One”. “Honestly, when I saw that he got the ball, I knew that he was going to look for me because we play together in the BDF (Sports Programme). We have a link and he always looks for me,” Harte noted. “When I saw the ball coming, all I wanted to do was to hit the target and it went on off a slight deflection.” Harte said his BDF coach Asquith Hamlett-Howell has helped him, even throughout the tournament. “He really helped me a lot, not only with training but recovery. He really worked with me a lot throughout this tournament and I thank him.” Harte, who hails from Golden Rock, at the bottom of Regent Hill, in The Pine, said it was a pleasure playing for the Pinelands-based Akademiks outfit, which is owned by Wayne Jones and managed by Santia Bradshaw. “It is a good feeling because I never got the chance to represent The Pine and the people in The Pine supported me throughout all these years and I’m glad that I got the opportunity to give back in this way and made them proud,” he said. Harte felt the team’s defence, marshalled by Omar Primus, was key to their success. “Everyone is accustomed to him playing well but he really settled himself this tournament and played some good football.” He also lauded Romayne “Spider Man” Primus, who was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and Best Goalkeeper. “He really composed himself and he saved us on a lot of occasions and everything just came into place and we gelled together,” noted Harte. “We had a strong team and we had a strong bench as well and the bench guys really came on and played their part in many games.” Harte, who has one more year left in the BDF Sports Programme, doesn’t rule out the possibility of linking up with Pinelands in the Barbados Football Association’s competition when he finishes his stint with the army. “You never know. Anything is possible,” Harte said.