Desailly hoping for high quality street football finals
Retired French defender Marcel Desailly says he is expecting to see a high standard of football at this weekend's Regional Finals of the Guinness Street Football Competition set for the Kingston waterfront. First-time hosts Jamaica will take on teams from Aruba, Trinidad, Barbados, Haiti, St Vincent, Guyana, St Kitts, St Lucia and Dominica for the right to be crowned best in the Caribbean.
The finals will be held over two days from June 27-28.
Desailly, who won UEFA Champions League titles with both Marseille and AC Milan, hopes the regional rivalry will bring the best out of each team.
"I'm really looking forward to seeing a high level of quality from all countries taking part. I'm looking to see really competitive, hard-fought games, but played in the right spirit," he said. "I'm expecting to see huge support and not just for the home nation, but all countries, as we are really hoping people will come out in their numbers to get behind the event."
He is expected to arrive in the island today and is looking forward to interacting with the participating teams.
Eager to connect
"I can't wait to speak to the teams and find out where they have come from and how the programme really reaches in to the communities, and how they have seen the event grow in their home countries in previous years to become what it is now. I'm sure there are some great stories out there."
In addition to helping to promote the finals, Desailly will be trying to motivate the players. And, he is also keen to get a taste of Jamaica.
"I will be trying to inspire the players to really be the best they can and make their supporters and countries proud. I want to help make sure they take pride in that and enjoy a special weekend. Aside from the football, I hear Jamaica is a beautiful country. People tell me I can't leave without making sure I get a real flavour of the food and, of course, the music. I really can't wait and hope to see as many people down there as possible."
The player, who was a member of the French national team that won the World Cup in 1998, said working with Guinness is not new for him, but this is the first time he will be involved in a project in the Caribbean.
"Most of the other work has been in Africa, where the drink is also hugely popular," he said. "In countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and Cameroon, I was involved in projects which, similarly, gave people across the region a chance to show what they are made of and be part of big football initiatives that touch every corner of the countries taking part."
He believes the Street Football competition has had a very positive impact on the sport of football globally as it does help players to develop their football skills.
"It really gets into the communities, gives people across the region the chance to step up to the challenge. This type of close-skills, small-goal format emphasises the need for control, speed and skill. If you can play well in these types of games, it really helps you in any type of football. I've seen the clips and spoken to those involved, and I understand the standard is getting better and better and pushing the teams to new levels of skills fitness and ability, which can only mean bigger and better things for the game in the region. It also has a widespread effect on all involved. It's not just about the players but whole communities, and the support and atmosphere that comes with it really grows the love of the game."