While failing to secure any hardware at the 46th annual Robbie’s International Soccer tournament in Scarborough, the Montego Bay Academy Under-13 and 15 boys’ teams have returned home with valuable life experiences.
For the majority of the players, this was their first exposure to an international soccer competition in a country outside Jamaica.
“Many of these youngsters never left the island prior to this trip,” said academy director, George Evans. “From boarding an aircraft and coming to Canada to playing in an international competition and making new friends is an experience that they will never forget. This was new and exciting for them and it’s something they will cherish. They are returning home much more enlightened.”
Winners of the 2011 Under-15 crown in their first outing, the Montego Bay Academy side failed to advance to the semi-finals after finishing behind Pickering Soccer Club on goal differential. The Jamaicans defeated Brampton Blast Blue and eventual champions Ajax F.C. White 1997 1-0 and lost to Brampton East Red Devils by a similar margin.
The Under-13 team, established a few months ago, conceded 14 goals while scoring just two in its three losses to Orangeville Storm, Erin Mills Soccer Club Eagles 99 Gold and Kitchener Spirit “A”. A total of 24 teams competed in this category.
In August 2011, Montego Bay Soccer Club replaced Seba United and started the academy. The first of its kind in Jamaica, the academy has about 200 members ranging in age from nine to 19.
“This was done to attract youths from the western part of the island,” said Evans, a former Jamaica Soccer Federation first vice-president who spent 25 years in England before returning to settle in Jamaica in 1992. “In addition to teaching them the sport, we are imbuing them with knowledge to make them rounded individuals and useful societal members.”
The Jamaicans were introduced to the Robbie’s tournament through Paul Jackson who is the Pickering Soccer Club’s business manager. He and Evans met in England and have been close friends for nearly 40 years. Jackson has visited Jamaica frequently in the last two decades.
“The Robbie’s tournament is an event that we would like to participate in on a regular basis,” Evans said. “Last year, we brought one team and won and this year we were endeavouring to bring three teams, but we had to drop the Under-17 side because of a lack of funding. To be honest, we started our fundraising late, but this will not happen again. As soon as we return home, we will begin the process of raising funds so that we could have at least two sides here next year.”
Evans praised Jamaican nationals in the Greater Toronto Area for their financial and moral support.
“It meant a lot to our players to see Jamaicans come out to the matches and also put their hands in their pockets to help our boys out,” he added. “We really appreciated it.”
A United Parcel Service area and depot manager prior to returning to Jamaica, Evans played semi-pro soccer in England from 1978 to 1989 and was a member of the 1999 Jamaican Masters team that lost 2-1 at home to a Brazilian side that included Zico, Eduardo and Leandro.
The Montego Bay teams ended their tour with friendly matches against Pickering Soccer Club which hosted the Jamaicans.
Ontario’s Minister of Consumer Services Margarett Best, federal Members of Parliament Chris Alexander and Corneliu Chisu, Pickering-Scarborough East MPP Tracy MacCharles, Pickering Mayor David Ryan and Jamaica’s consul general George Ramocan attended the double header at Kinsmen Park.
“The area of sport is vital for building relationships,” said Ramocan. “Jamaica and Canada have enjoyed a long and healthy relationship and it’s significant that teams representing the two countries are playing here today as we prepare to celebrate our 50th independence anniversary.”
Barbados also fielded two teams in this year’s Robbie’s tournament.
The Mavericks Sports Club Under-16 boys netted one goal while conceding 14 in three losses while the Under-17/18 girls’ team were outscored 18-2.
BY RON FANFAIR