Zest United triumph in football competition
PORT MARIA, St Mary:
A mixed-sex group of young sportspeople from Port Maria, St Mary, are hoping to develop into one of the best football teams in the country after winning $50,000 in a six-a-side competition hosted by the National Youth Service (NYS).
On November 13, Zest United triumphed in the NYS's parish contest and followed up the victory to win the national finals 11 days later, defeating rivals from St Catherine in a thrilling penalty shootout at the National Water Commission's recreational fields in Mona, St Andrew.
In accordance with competition rules, all teams were required to field at least one female or a person with disabilities in every game.
As Zest's only female competitor, Resheka Simms relished the comradeship she experienced with her teammates and hopes that in the future, more young women will get to enjoy football on equal terms.
She told Rural Xpress: "I've played football before, not seriously, but just really wanted to be a part of this completion. For me, it was a great experience because I got the chance to know what it's like to play with 'real' footballers.
"It wasn't a matter of gender segregation - there was no male or female aspect; it was just about being a team, and that felt awesome."
NYS regional field officer for St Mary, Sharleen Clarke, said: "This competition was about engaging and socialising the youths in a different way. The idea was for them to have fun, be present and engaged with youths from varying communities, and for us to show them we're here in a holistic way; development through play, competition, and learning.
"Personally, I feel good that we were able to send two teams to the national finals, and one came back as the winner; and it's amazing because this win is really helping to put our parish on the map."
Simms' teammate, Akeem Robinson, is proud that 15 per cent of their prize money will be donated to a local charity or community project, and praised the NYS for developing an initiative that simultaneously helped galvanise his team and provide funds to develop his hometown.
He said: "We've been together since school days when we played in the DaCosta Cup. To be honest, we didn't really have any hard challenges in the parish rounds, and the only real competition we found was in the quarter-finals of the national league, against Hanover, Lucea.
"That was a competitive game because we both know about football. I think they do a lot of training because they were in better shape than us, but we used style to win the game.
Akeiba Clarke explained: "They were fitter and stronger than us, so we used our knowledge, skills and experience to bring the match to penalties because we know we're good when it comes to penalty kicks.
"We had already beaten St Catherine 2-1 in the group stages and when we met again in the final, they gave us a much tougher challenge, but it came to another penalty shootout, and we were successful."
Robinson added: "Winning this competition is a wonderful feeling that has given us a lot of exposure and I really feel that with this team, we can win any competition that comes up over the next year."