Jolyn Bryan, Gleaner Writer
Like most rural communities, Albion Estate in St Thomas has little in the way of entertainment. It is, however, home to many young people who find that it is often difficult to occupy themselves when they are not at work or at school. Several young men in the community have come up with a solution that has been delighting residents - both young and old - since October of last year.
Preliminary matches of the Blake's Pharmacy Albion Community Winter Shield Football Competition are again under way, and each weekend, spectators eagerly gather at the Grants Pen Primary School's football field to cheer on their favourite teams. This is the second staging of the competition organised by Albion residents Christopher Davy, Clive Gray, and Yolando Bentley. It is hugely popular among residents of Albion and surrounding communities. Twelve teams, divided into two zones, are this year vying for the shield, currently held by defending champions Future Youths.
The creatively and colourfully named teams come from all across the Yallahs district and from the Albion community. Zone A teams Montipellier, Grants Pen, Twitter.com, One Order, Alcoholic Strikers, South Heaven United, and Zone B teams Future Youths, Logwood, Galaxy S4, Emirates Strikers, BlackBerry Z10, and Heartless are in contention this year.
Many of the communities have recently been ravaged by crime, with robberies, murders, and gang-related activities on the rise. With the recent influx of newcomers into the area, many feel that activities like these are necessary to foster integration and the building of community spirit.
Christopher Davy explained to Rural Xpress that the competition was started as a means to bring the communities in Yallahs together and to strengthen the ties among residents.
"We realised that the community needed something that could bring out the residents to rap with each other. The fact that football is played everywhere else mostly in the summer made us choose a name with a difference, so we made it the Winter Shield," he said.
Davy also explained that 16 invitations were sent out, and the first 12 teams to respond were chosen. Advertisement for the matches played on Saturdays and Sundays, one game at three and another at four o'clock, was done through social media, flyers, posters, loudhailers, and word of mouth.
Sponsorship came from far and wide, with businesses in Albion and the Corporate Area giving assistance. Eve, courtesy of Facey Group of Companies, sponsors a basket to be awarded to first-prize winners, who will also get $20,000 and medals. MSquared Business Management Consultancy sponsors the second prize of $10,000, a trophy, and medals. Other sponsors include Winsome Wholesale, Midway Medical Centre, Advanced Align-ment, C&G Green Grocery, Millennium Paving Stones, and various residents overseas. Edwin Marr, councillor for the Llandewey division, is also a major sponsor and supporter, hardly missing a match.
Brings about integration
The family-oriented event has been welcomed by many residents in Yallahs.
Romario Watson, a young player from Emirates City who, unfortunately, has been eliminated from the competition, is nonetheless pleased with the matches.
"I find it uplifting. It puts Albion in a good light, and it brings about integration.' he told Rural Xpress.
One resident expressed approval of the teams' willingness to involve youths of all backgrounds.
"It gives them something positive to do. It is a very healthy competition, and I actually look forward to the matches on weekends. If they (the youths) are here playing ball, they won't be out terrorising people," he said.
Residents aren't the only ones who are pleased with the game. Vendors have also taken advantage of the turnout on weekends, selling various products, including sodas, roasted peanuts and snacks, as well as ice cream, a regular treat on a Sunday afternoon.
The quarter-final matches will be held on December 7 and 8; semi-finals on December 21 and 22, and finals on Christmas Day. This will be paired with an annual treat, which is a long-standing tradition in Albion called 'Unda the Light', to be held at the school.