The Banks Barbados International Masters Football Festival will kick off its 21st edition with a total of 48 participating teams.
During Thursday morning’s press launch held at Sporting Pig, the official bar of the tournament, chairman of the festival’s organizing committee Paul ‘Starsky’ Wright said amidst a number of economic challenges, the tournament was the largest sporting tourism event outside of cricket and he was pleased to see the continuous support from their various sponsors and teams especially those who returned each year for the event.
He said with 1200 players scheduled to represent their various teams in the over-40 and 50 age groups and many of them being businessmen who travel with their families, the organizers were expecting BDS$3 million to be pumped into the economy over the next four days of competition.
“Despite Brexit, the weakening of the British pound and the Canadian dollar, international terrorism and the uncertainty caused by the new Trump Administration, the popularity of our festival, now in its 21st year continues unabated, further reinforcing our tournament’s status as ‘the largest sports tourism event outside of international cricket’ as quoted by the former Barbados Tourism Authority [now Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc],” he said.
Adrian Donovan, another member of the committee, explained that many of the players who are over 50 years old were requesting to have a 60 and over category along with three additional venues which they will be looking into for the 22nd edition next year.
X-Men Quebec from Canada and Pele Masters Football club from the United States of America are the only two newcomers from overseas. In the over 40 showdown Royalty Ballers of Barbados will be chasing their second consecutive trophy while last year’s runners up Brooklyn Central, also from United States, will look to go all the way this time around. They will also need to keep an eye out for another Bajan team, Wildey Masters, who were the champions of 2015.
Meanwhile the over 50 contest will feature defending champions Unity of Trinidad and Tobago and Republika Srpska who lost the final.
The tournament will be broken down into 32 teams for over 40s and 16 for over 50s competing at Carlton, Dover, Kickstart and Wanderers where the grand final will take place on Whit Monday June 5. Organizers are hoping for an increase of 4 000 from last year to a much larger gathering of spectators given that there will be no admission fee at any of the respective venues.
Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. (BTMI) who has been the prime sponsors since the inception of the 1995 tournament continues to give its supports towards the growth and development of the tournament.
Manager of Sports at the BTMI Devon Chase recalled that in 2015 they had outlined plans for the tournament going forward and one of those improvements and inclusions was the over 50s tournament which has grown in numbers over the past two years.
“This tournament really speaks to all we sell about Barbados, all we sell about the destination. It is about the competition but more importantly it is about the camaraderie. I am pleased to see over the years that there are a number of teams that continue to come back,” he said.
Meanwhile trade and marketing co-ordinator at Banks, Rodney King and manager of marketing at Scotiabank Keisha Humphrey-Mayers spoke on behalf of their respective companies and pledged their continued support for the masters’ tournament.