Tue | Dec 6, 2022

Unity Cup a litmus test for schoolboys

Published:Tuesday | August 9, 2022 | 12:09 AMOrane Buchanan/Staff Reporter

FORMER NATIONAL goalkeeper Allien Whittaker is eyeing a successful 14th staging of the Unity Cup, set for this weekend at Turner’s Oval in Chapelton, Clarendon. The Unity Cup, a pre-season tournament for Manning and daCosta Cup teams, is a knockout competition that is expected to bring out the best of the 10 teams down to compete.

“It’s a way of showing appreciation because football has done so much for me in particular,” said Whittaker.

“It’s just giving back in the form of a football tournament. This tournament initially derived from the fact that I went to both Garvey Maceo and Clarendon College, so in previous years the arrangement would have been to have both Clarendon-based teams playing in the featured game,” said Whittaker.

The 10-team tournament is scheduled to kick off with Thompson Town vs Old Harbour High at 8 a.m., Central High vs Ocho Rios High at 10 a.m., Lennon High vs Charlemont High at noon, Munro College vs Wolmer’s Boys’ at 2 p.m., before Jamaica College and Rusea’s close the proceedings at 4 p.m.

Whittaker, a former daCosta Cup winner with Garvey Maceo, said the tournament is geared towards giving young players a taste of what it is like playing in front of a large crowd prior to the start of the high school football season.

“You have first-timers in some of the teams who have never played in front of a large crowd, so this a chance for them to get a taste of what it’s like playing in their school colours and coming under the pressure of the fans. Initially, that was the aim in testing not only the players, but also the coaches to see where they are with a competitive game before the high school season starts. With games like these, coaches can make their adjustments and see where they are now, versus where they’re supposed to be,” added Whittaker.

Whittaker, who played his last schoolboy season back in 2001, says during his days, there weren’t a lot of pre-season tournaments which catered towards keeping players sharp ahead of their schoolboy season.

“No, I can’t remember that. In my last year, which was in 2001, I can remember going to William Knibb, but that was like a 20 minutes per half game. But this (Unity Cup) is a full game with every game being a final. So, that brings out the competitiveness. I will provide a trophy for each game. So, if after 90 minutes there is deadlock, the game goes to penalties. So this might be the only trophy for some teams,” said Whittaker.

The now retired 39-year-old Whittaker says the Unity Cup, which is his brainchild, has grown exponentially over the years and he is envisioning more years of success to come.

“This is the 14th staging of the Unity Cup. Had it not been for the two-year stoppage due to the pandemic, this would have been the 16th. The tournament has grown, and has now become a calendar event. I can remember the first staging.”