Thursday, February 29, 2024

Challenge most welcome


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Former?Opposition Leader Mia Mottley and long-serving administrator Randy Harris are again linking up for the second edition of the lucrative LIME Pelican Challenge, with the first prize remaining at $100 000.
And judging from the many local footballers who turned up at Kensington Oval last Sunday for the draft picks, it seems they are eager to get the ball rolling again. If only this type of tournament could be possible in other sports.
The million-dollar question now is whether the David Thompson Memorial Constituency Councils Tournament will also be coming back. I will also be eagerly awaiting the stipulations for eligibility.
That aside, this year there are two new teams joining the fray – Bajan Elite and Sportstown Galaxy – bringing the number to 12. I’m not sure why the teams have been increased, but let’s hope it doesn’t water down the standard of play.
With all the matches being played at Kensington, ball control and passing should be a lot better. Fitness will also be crucial as the field should be bigger than that at the National Stadium.
The atmosphere at games should also be electrifying as spectators in the Greenidge & Haynes Stand should also be nearer the action, unlike at the Stadium, where there are the athletic and cycle tracks.
It may also be a good chance for business houses to rent some of the hospitality boxes so that their employees can enjoy a Sunday evening of Bajan soccer. With the national invitees also in training for the upcoming Digicel Caribbean Cup qualifiers, let’s hope there won’t be any conflicts with attendance at practice sessions.   
Two of last year’s sides have changed names, with the Bayland-based Conquerors now known as L.G. Strike Force and the Pinelands-based Higher Learning switching to the more popular Akademiks. Teams had until yesterday to complete their trades of three picks.
Akademiks were indeed lucky to have the first pick and wasting little time in pouching home boy Mario Harte, the inspirational Barbados Defence Force (BDF) marksman. His partnership with Arantees Lawrence, Lionel Paul and the evergreen Peter Stoute should at least result in more goals.
Overall the draft has thrown up some interesting combinations, with several changes to the personnel of the roster of the franchises even though the nucleus of the teams remains.
It is noticeable that Bajan Pride have gained two former Barbados players in striker Walton Burrowes and midfielder Rondelle Vaughan but have lost goalkeeper Greg Jones, midfielder Kirk Best and striker Angus Doyle.
Last year’s losing finalists 360 Connection secured two major acquisitions in midfielder Malcolm “Buju” Marshall and 2010 Player Of The Year Kyle Gibson.
Red Tridents have drafted versatile BDF footballer Kadeem “Buju” Atkins and roving midfielder Curtis Odle, who was with Top Bay Settlers last year.
Phoenix Firehouse have lost goalkeeper Jason Boxill and big central defender Barry Skeete to Bajan Elite, a team which is owned by English-based Barbados international Emmerson Boyce and will be coached by Jerry Skeete.
But Fire House have drafted defender Rohan Hall and teenaged striker Shaquille Stewart, as well as BDF’s goalkeeper Saheka “Rossi” Duke.
Bajan Elite include a number of Barbados Under-20 players as well as the BDF duo of Zico Phillips and Chai Lloyd. Red Snappers should be among the favoured teams with national goalkeeper Bentley Springer coming on board.
The biggest pick, however, is St Vincent and the Grenadines’ national captain and top striker Shandel Samuel, who played with Division 3 champions Rendezvous in this year’s Barbados Football Association’s season.
The St John-based Scotty’s Tech4less Combined All Stars will welcome BDF’s Paul Alexander and Paradise’s midfielder Cody Mark while LG Strike Force have added the experienced John Hawkesworth and Notre Dame’s No.1 goalkeeper Kareem Farrell.
Top Bay Settlers should benefit from the addition of Barbados’ Under-20 captain Ricardio Morris and lanky striker Henderson Richards, as well as veteran Ryan Lucas.
The Gall Hill, Christ Church-based T. S. Strikers failed to get past the preliminaries last year and it is left to be seen what impact new coach Randolph Cox will have.
New franchise Sportstown Galaxy, which is owned by Marcellus Babb and will be coached by Patrick Skinner, have assembled a side with players from the North.
Even though a ball hasn’t been kicked, it may be a tough baptism for them despite the presence of two talented strikers in Maradona Lavine and Angus Doyle.


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