Thompson Classic 'a unifying force'

JUSTIN MARVILLE,

Added 22 December 2012

thecrowd1

FORGET THE Dees and the Bees. Constituency football is all about the big “C”. Add Mark “Bob” Forde to the list of those who believe the communities stand to gain the most from the David Thompson Memorial Constituency Councils’ Football Classic after witnessing the competition unify the various ridings. “This tournament goes beyond politics because it is community-based and assists so many people like vendors, bus people, caterers and the players themselves,” explained Forde. “Understand that we are taking football to 30 constituencies across Barbados, where everyone gets an opportunity to watch their neighbours, residents and friends play football. “This can only be a positive step, and you’re seeing how these communities take ownership of their teams. Can you imagine that these communities take four and five buses full of spectators to travel and watch their teams?” Forde, who was one of the coordinators of the tournament, is the latest person to publicly support its continuation following similar sentiments expressed by both Prime Minister Freundel Stuart and Minister of Constituency Empowerment Steven Blackett. Both Government officials argued for the tournament to continue even if the ruling Democratic Labour Party Government wasn’t returned to office, citing the positive impact it had on community life. Forde, a widely respected FIFA official, went one step further by contending that local football would reap the benefits of the tournament. “Younger players who ordinarily don’t get the opportunity to play football at the Premier League level or another high level now have the chance to showcase their skills on the national stage,” Forde said. “That was originally the concept behind this tournament, and now I am seeing Premier League teams sending their coaches and scouts to these games looking at these players they wouldn’t usually get a chance to see. “Senior and junior national coaches are now also getting a chance to see some players for the first time, and it’s not like the standard isn’t improving. And I mean the more football that is played could only be good for the country.” Earlier this year,  Opposition Leader and former Prime Minister Owen Arthur had concerns about the tournament after deeming the more than half-million dollar price tag as wastage. Forde, though, felt quite differently after seeing a significant improvement in the standard of play from last year’s inaugural tournament. “Of course, there were negatives and positives, but with the exception of the finals, the standard has definitely improved this year,” said Forde. “Overall, I was pleased with the level of play, and I was really pleased with teams like Christ Church West Central, St Andrew and, of course, the champions, the City. Then, the crowds were bigger and the level of interest has grown.” Forde said he intended to do a post-mortem on the tournament before looking at what initiatives he might be able to implement for next year’s edition. “We might look at playing the tournament at a different time and increasing the prize monies, but we definitely have to reconsider how to deal with the players from LIME Pelican [the other major out of season tournament] who want to come and play after their teams are knocked out,” Forde said.

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