Soccer Championships kick off on April 17

By RENALDO DORSETT

Tribune Sports Reporter

rdorsett@tribunemedia.net

Soccer will be the next sport on the academic calendar to contest it’s national championship when the top teams throughout the country take to the pitch.

The Bahamas Football Association, in conjunction with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture will host the Samuel P Haven 2018 National Soccer Championships, presented by the IL Cares Foundation, April 17-21 at the Roscow AL Davies Soccer Field.

In this year’s championships, the finalists from BAISS and GSSSA and the champions from GBSSSA (Grand Bahama) will compete in a single elimination tournament to decide who will be 2018’s National Champions.

Evon Wisdom, Senior Education Officer at the Ministry of Education said the development of the sport within the school system has become paramount.

“This tournament has been sanctioned three consecutive years and we see it as a development tool to assist the BFA in the development of soccer in our country. We feel as though this can be powered by schools and their rivalries will make this sport so much better so the ministry is proud to promote this event. The popularity of the tournament has continued to grow to now we have even been asked to include our junior high schools. This is something that we intend to work with the BFA on to see how each year we can make the tournament bigger and better,” he said,

“We are putting in place a development programme for family islands where they can develop those leagues to the point where they can be invited to play in nationals. Those talks are ongoing and will continue throughout the summer so next year we will be able to see participation from the Family Islands. We take the development of soccer very seriously and feel that it should be done properly and in order,” he added.

“We believe at the ministry we play an important role in assisting the BFA in the development of soccer. We have to better coordinate as this event continues to grow. Teams are trying to come to this championship and this timing unfortunately comes into play close with examinations. Our mandate is first to academics and with soccer placed where it is we will always have the issue with the exams timetable. Some leagues have not finished, so I believe we may have to find a change in schedule to facilitate the timing of the tournament”.

The BAISS is the only league to have completed their seasons thus far and have teams qualified for the tournament.

In the Senior Boys division, the St Andrews Hurricanes are the champions and the Lyford Cay Dragons finished as runners-up.

In Senior Girls play, the Queen’s College Comets enter as the champions and the Aquinas Aces also earned automatic qualification as runners up. The GSSSA will begin their championships this afternoon and in Grand Bahama, a tournament to determine their participants will be completed this weekend.

Four games will be contested each afternoon of the three-day event. Match times are slated for a 4:30pm start on the 17th and 19th and a 1:30pm start for the medal round on the 21st.

Adam Miller, Assistant General Secretary of the BFA, said the tournament’s format will provide maximum exposure for the participating teams.

“We are looking to expand with the addition of two teams from Grand Bahama. The idea is that four of the teams will play in a random draw on the 17th and the winners from that matchup will play the champions from the BAISS and Grand Bahama and those winners will play in the championship on the 21 with the losers relegated to the third-place game. “Once we find out which team will earn a spot then we have a better idea of what the layout of the tournament and the schedule will be and what the draw will look like,” he said. “The format is to provide teams with as much opportunities to advance to the championship and also leagues that have more success in this tournament, they will get benefits to their rankings. The idea is to eventually turn into an 8-field tournament to be determined by a rankings system rather than simply by the league you play in.”

After a successful hosting in the 2016 edition of the tournament, the 2017 event was postponed due BFA hosting its resources on the country’s hosting of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

“Four games each day is a lot of games in a short period of time, but hopefully the teams are prepared for it,” Miller added. “It was unfortunate we were unable to host in 2017 due to resources being focused on the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, but a lot of teams felt like they should have been in it are looking at opportunities to win this year.

“It’s always good to see teams compete against ones they are not used to playing against so it should present some interesting matchups. The issue we have now is timing for the leagues and league play not being in sync. Some teams have three weeks off, some teams have two days off, some teams have no rest at all. When we get to the point where everyone is on the same schedule we wouldn’t have to work against this issue.”

Visiting teams will be lodged at the Courtyard Marriott Downtown.

The Queen’s College Comets and St Augustine’s College Big Red Machine claimed the first national high school soccer champions in Bahamian high school sports history.

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