Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
The Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)/Gatorade/Digicel Manning and daCosta Cup football competitions will get under way on Saturday, September 8 when defending Manning Cup, Walker Cup and Oliver Shield champions St George's College tackle Hydel High in Group C, while Rusea's High will open their daCosta Cup title defence against Herbert Morrison High.
The opening ceremony for both competitions and the double-header to kick off the season will take place at the Catherine Hall Complex in Montego Bay.
The only significant amendment to this year's competition is that the daCosta Cup has been divided into 15 zones, up from 12.
"Over the years, there have been complaints about the frequency of the matches, as the teams had to be playing three matches per week and therefore the recovery time was not good enough," Dr Walton Small, the ISSA chairman, explained following the press launch yesterday at Terra Nova Hotel.
"We did it (increased the number of zones) for the Manning Cup, as they had the same problem and it worked wonderfully, so we are going to see how it works," he added.
The increase in the number of zones in the daCosta Cup will result in teams having to travel longer distances to play their matches, but Small believes this is better than having the youngsters playing too many matches in a short period of time.
"The problem with increasing the number of zones is that some teams may have to travel a little further, because they are not now being clustered," Small said.
"After we spoke to the coaches and the principals they decided that it would be better to do the excess travelling and play fewer matches per week, so the most matches they will have per week is two," he added.
President of the Jamaica Football Federation, Captain Horace Burrell, seized the opportunity to implore the Government to invest more in the various sporting disciplines. He would like to see something done regarding the playing facilities that are used for the pending schoolboy football season.
"There is one area I would love to see an improvement in, and that is the field, as one of the things which really hamper football development in Jamaica is the surface," Burrell stated. "Most of the surfaces leave a lot to be desired and I am just hoping that something will be done to improve the playing surface."
This is the final of ISSA's three-year sponsorship deal with title sponsors Digicel and Pepsi-Cola Jamaica through their brand Gatorade, which have put forward $17m each for the funding of this year's competition. Associate sponsor Restaurants of Jamaica, through their brand KFC, is contributing in the region of $5m, while new media partners, RJR Communications Group, will pump its funds into production.
"All we do is help ISSA to create a platform for young boys to come out and do extremely well," Digicel Jamaica's sports sponsorship manager, Tahnida Nunes, said.
Marketing coordinator for Restaurants of Jamaica, Ryan Silvera, encouraged the youngsters to have fun in the midst of competition.
"You should go out there and play with an inner strength, because even though it is a competition, you should have fun as well," said Silvera.
CAPTION: Sponsors' representatives team up for a photo during the launch of the ISSA/Gatorade/Digicel Manning and daCosta Cup schoolboy football competitions at Terra Nova hotel yesterday. They are (from left) Digicel's marketing director, Connor Looney, RJR Communications Group managing director, Gary Allen, Digicel Jamaica sports sponsorship manager, Tahnida Nunes, Restaurants of Jamaica marketing coordinator, Ryan Silvera, and Pepsi Cola Jamaica Limited marketing coordinator, Cornelia Nathan. Ian Allen/Photographer