Gardner, Bell say Gatorade 5v5 is a great initiative
Former national footballer Ricardo ‘Bibi’ Gardner and renowned local youth coach Neville ‘Bertis’ Bell have hailed the inaugural staging of the Gatorade 5v5 Football Tournament as a great initiative and opportunity for the nation’s young talent.
The competition, which was launched at the Barbican Football Field yesterday, takes place from March 8 to 10 and will feature players ages 14 to 16.
Of the 32 squads, six players will be given the honour of representing Jamaica in Madrid, Spain, in an international tournament set for May 27 to June 2.
Gardner, a former Bolton Wanders player in the English Premier League, toldThe Gleaner that international experience and exposure are always beneficial and he hoped the young players would use the opportunity to learn and improve.
“This is a great initiative,” he said. “The youngsters will be greatly looking forward to it. It will get them somewhere they dream of. But any international experience is good. Whether or not it takes you to the next level, you have to grasp what you can get from it,” he said.
Bell said that it is an opportunity for players to be drafted to a European club and he believes that if even one player gets the chance to better his career, the tournament would have served its purpose. “Just to play here is an opportunity, but to end up in Madrid at the UEFA Champions League final is fantastic!” he said.
“If we get an opportunity to go to Madrid, just like Ricardo Gardner was the one player to come out of the World Cup team, if we get even one player into Europe, it would have been worth it. I pray we get all six, but even one would be worth it.”
The first round of the tournament will be contested on a knockout round-of-32 basis, with only the winners moving on to the quarter-finals. The 16 remaining teams will be placed in four groups of four for the quarter-finals.
The top two teams from each quarter-final group will then advance to the semi-finals. The winners of the semi-finals will play the final.
Paula Pinnock-McLeod, managing director of FYI Consultancy Group, the tournament organiser, expects to be overwhelmed by entries, but anticipates an exciting three days of football.
“It’s an amazing initiative,” she said. “It has been going on for four years outside of Jamaica, so we are very happy with the competition coming here”.
The FYI group is responsible for executing on behalf of Gatorade as it relates to organising teams and getting the registration process complete.
“It will be an exciting three-day tournament. We want the kids to come and have fun, but we want it to be at a level that when they go and represent Jamaica, they can come home with the trophy.”