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JAFT 2023. Calabar, STGC Look To Repeat As Youth Take Centerstage

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Some eighteen schools are expected to participate in this year’s staging of the Jamaica Alumni Football Tournament (JAFT), at the James L. Fleming Park, Yonkers, NY, on Saturday and Sunday, June 24 and 25.

During a virtual information session with team leaders last week, tournament directors Bobby ‘Tego’ Austin and Michael ‘Dunga’ MacDonald announced some upgrades and enhancements to this year’s festival, including the addition of a youth component with an international flavor, new teams in the masters’ section and support from a key Diaspora stakeholder.

“Players and supporters will like the facilities provided by the town of Yonkers with a new playing surface (astroturf), lighting and more than adequate parking,” noted Austin, whose JC teams made it to the play-off round last year.

With more than one field at their disposal, organizers are upbeat about the addition of a youth segment that will showcase the players in front of an audience that will include college coaches. Four of the six teams in the youth segment will be juniors – Under 12 years old and two will be seniors – Under 19 years old.

McDonald who played collegiate soccer at the division one level after a stellar career for Jamaica College in the Manning Cup competition, said that after some effort the festival will provide an opportunity for selected players from the 2022 Manning and DaCosta Cup season to play an invitational team from the Griffin Football Club, with the hope of securing scholarship to further their careers in the sport.

Andre Virtue, whose charges at Ballaz Academy, have been making a name for themselves across Jamaica, will face off with a Bronx-Albanian outfit in the U-12 division that will have Griffin FC and  Central Brooklyn SC, NY, as well,  for an entertaining foursome for the families traveling to see the youngsters in action.

 For the masters’, those players seeking to somehow rediscover the glory for self and school, three new teams will suit up this year, all with championship pedigree, in Charlie Smith High School (Manning Cup), and Cornwall College and St. Elizabeth Technical (STETHS), from the DaCosta Cup competitions.

Last year, Calabar repeated as champions in the U.45 division and St. Georges’ College topped the Over45 section for their first championship.

Mixed in with the excitement and the action, the tournament organizers will take a moment to shine the spotlight of some very important personalities of the sport, past and present, for their dedication and commitment.

Those getting the nod this year include; player/coach Frank Brown and Christopher Zaidie, for services to STGC, Boys’ Town, Santos and Columbia University; Trevor Ellington – Mercy College, Unity FC/Bronx New York Int’l Soccer League and Jerome Waite – Coach/Charlie Smith High, Arnett Gardens.

On Saturday evening, the Griffin Masters’ team will face Greenwich Pumas Masters’, in a memorial game for Milton ‘Bumpy’ Harris, who played for both teams before his untimely passing in April, this year.

‘Bumpy’ is better remembered as a member of the 1987 STATHS Manning Cup championship team, moving on to represent Papine, Real Mona, Barbican and Constant Spring outfits, in the National Premier League and other Corporate Area competitions.

‘We are moving in the right direction and we are happy with the level of ‘buy in’ from the teams and the community and especially Victoria Mutual Building Society (VMBS) and the Gleaner Company/USA, at this time. Patrons will be pleased with the offering,” according to Austin.

The tournament kicks off on both days at 9.00 am, weather permitting.

Pictures courtesy of Griffin Football Club, Bronx.

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