Timely return for Insports' All-Island Community football
The Institute of Sports (Insports) All-Island Community Football League made a timely return to the local calendar.
For three years, the popular championship - which had its inauguration in 1989 - had been scrapped due to a lack of funds.
"It was sponsored by Claro. Unfortunately, they packed up and left the following year and we were left without a sponsor," noted Ian Andrews, Insports' executive director.
"After a three-year absence, we were literally begged by the communities to bring it back. Because of the demands, we had to find a way to reintroduce it. So we're doing it on a phased basis and we started with Kingston and St Andrew, in September."
That start-up period almost coincided with the national sports agency's restructuring.
"The board and management, through its new corporate plan, is putting the agency back at the level that it's expected," Andrews informed. "Our mandate is about sports development at the foundation stage; primary schools and communities.
"Our biggest competition now is the All-Island Community Football Championship. It's our flagship competition," he stated, of the tournament dubbed 'Ghetto World Cup' by participants.
Like the game's biggest championship, its reach is all encompassing, with a competition for each parish that decides a champion.
The monetary reward for each parish winner is $50,000.
It's less than the amount each got when Central America mobile giant Claro was spinning its dollars, but the teams don't mind. They want to play.
At the end of it all, they stand to earn big, with $500,000 earmarked for the overall champion and another half million going to the winning parish. Additionally, the organisers provide jerseys for each team as according to the Insports ED, "that's all we can afford now".
He says they are still looking for a sponsor to take the competition forward. But while that search goes on, they are carrying out their own to unearth talent, on several fronts.
"The unique thing about this competition is that we target the ones who are not playing anywhere else," Andrews said. "We're not only looking to unearth talent on the field, but off it as well.
"Over the past year, we've been traversing the country, running training seminars for officials and the response has been tremendous. In turn, these officials deal with the teams and matches as they develop a skill they can also use at a higher level," he explained.
At the community level, Andrews noted there are benefits too.
"The competition provides growth for the communities on two fronts, recreational and developmental. People come out to the games and it builds the unity and friendships, camaraderie within the communities," he outlined, noting that besides Insports, other professional bodies are involved to ensure wholesome benefits.
"It (competition) wasn't just a pastime for recreational purposes, but we were looking at other aspects of the individual and community's development, which meant partnering with other agencies such as the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning, World Anti-Doping Agency through the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission, National Council for Drug Abuse, and Dispute Resolution Foundation," Andrew said.
These agencies, he explained, also interact with the players and communities by imparting knowledge and training for growth and better relationships. He says there is more to it.
"This competition really touches the pulse of the communities," Andrews remarked. "Even the little man from the community can sell his peanuts, juice and refreshments at the game. So there's something in it for everybody."
At this point, he says they haven't decided which parish is next in line. However, Insports aims to start a similar programme for women, through their favourite sport - netball.
"We're looking for a similar competition for the ladies that we're looking to start next year," he said. "We've a certified International Federation of Netball Associations umpire, Sylvester Campbell. He also has been traversing the country and training potential umpires, so the same preparation is being done for the ladies."
When the time is right, they too will become part of the local calendar, parading their skills in competition as a means of community development.