The plush, top-rated facility that is the Holders Polo Club will for the first time host the 22nd annual Barbados International Masters Football Festival which is scheduled to kick off this weekend.
During this morning’s press briefing to announce the important event on Barbados’ sporting calendar, festival chairman Paul ‘Starsky’ Wright said the tournament was being played at a time when Barbados was badly in need of foreign exchange. He revealed that a total of 48 teams had been confirmed for the May 18 to 21 festival.
“The main complaints we received over the years were that the playing surfaces were not up to scratch. We are going to Holders [Polo Club], if you see these fields it is like playing at Wembley Stadium. It is a whole new experience for you and we hope it works. They have well-manicured fields, so there are no excuses for you players to complain the field is at fault when you miss a goal or that the ball bounce and it hit a rock or anything like that.
“Of course, that meant we had to double our transportation cost…Also, with the famous NSRL [National Social Responsibility Levy], the increase in referee fees [also went up] and we handed the bar over to Holders, so we lost that income,” said Wright, one of three wise men of the organizing committee along with Adrian ‘Ockey’ Donovan and Grant ‘Doom’ Trebble.
This year’s tournament will play at two venues -Holders Hill polo field for the finals and Carlton which will host the preliminary rounds. A total of 32 teams will be involved as they seek to dethrone reigning champions Vincy Masters who edged locals Wildey 1-0 last year in the Over-40s showdown. The X-men of Trinidad and Tobago are also back to defend their Over-50s title and 16 teams will be involved in this age group.
Apart from the trophies being rewarded to each of the winning teams, BDS$2,500 is also up for grabs in the Over-40s category and $1,500 in the Over-50s. A whopping 22 overseas teams will grace the shores of Barbados with international squads from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom scheduled to compete along with regional sides such as Trinidad and Tobago which have one of the largest contingents of seven teams. Grenada, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines are also competing in the tournament.
Amigos Sports Bar came on this year as a new sponsor, but Scotiabank has been a sponsor of the festival for the past six years along with Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc and Banks Breweries who have both been around from the inception in 1995.
Speaking on behalf of her company, Scotiabank marketing manager Keisha Humphrey-Mayers said they had always shown a keen interest in sports, especially football.
“In the area of sports particularly, we have always been aligned to cricket and football. With cricket we have always been associated with Kiddies cricket, we have been sponsoring that for the past eighteen years, and in 2015 we signed on to be the official bank of CONCACAF. We also recently concluded a sponsorship with the BFA for the Scotiabank National Youth Cup and that also gave us rights to brand for the premier league as well. So, I would say our association with football has always been and will continue to be very strong.
“For this International Master’s Festival, I think that it completely allies with our sponsorship pillars and whatever we do with the sponsorship, as I said health, education or sports, we are always committed to the community and this sponsorship gives us an avenue to reach others in the community. We are very glad to expose our brand regionally and internationally, and certainly to expose the rest of the world to what Barbados has to offer. We are also very pleased that the festival can attract direct foreign investment . . . and we truly support that,” Humphrey-Mayers said.
The games will kick off tomorrow from 2 p.m. at both Carlton and Holders Polo Club and climax on Monday with the final at 3 p.m.