Occasionally running his fingers through his trademark silver hair, Jamaica’s national football team coach, Winfried Schäfer, regaled us with tales from his years in the Bundesliga, Africa and the Emirates. His broken English was punctuated by our laughter at stories of rich sheikhs and fanatical supporters.
The occasion was the launch of the VMBS/St. James Under-13 Football Competition in Montego Bay recently at the Catherine Hall Sports Complex. A gentle wind on this bright day served as the perfect backdrop for the gathering of boys, girls, coaches and teachers from various primary, preparatory and all-age schools, as well as representatives from the VMBS family and the St. James Football Association. Significantly, this also marked the 25th staging of the competition – a quarter of a century of Victoria Mutual supporting youth and sport in Jamaica’s second city. To say we were all brimming with excitement would be an understatement!
Coach Winnie, as he is affectionately called, was the guest speaker on the day and he took the opportunity to laud the efforts of VMBS in supporting youth football. The long-term benefits of an excellent youth programme, he advised, are evident in Germany’s dominance in world football and their recent World Cup victory. “You are the future of football our boys and girls,” he noted in his keynote speech. “Our people are looking to you to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.” Schäfer, German by birth, noted that his home country had long started to focus on youth football and developed young talent from the academies all the way through to the club and national systems.
Audley Knight, Assistant Vice President, Sales & Service at Victoria Mutual Building Society was a lively and entertaining master of ceremonies, guiding the proceedings along as Christopher Denny, Vice President, Distribution (and former Montegonian), Gregory Daley, President of the St. James Football Association and VMBS, MoBay Branch Manager, Suzette Ramdanie-Linton also addressed the audience. A special commendation was reserved for Hopeton Gilchrist, 22-year co-ordinator of the competition, for his tireless efforts and sterling contribution.
At Victoria Mutual, we’re committed supporting our community, and the achievements of these talented youngsters over the years have only strengthened our resolve. Both girls and boys have been involved in the tournaments and some have gone on to represent Jamaica’s national teams. A large number of the boys have gone on to play in the DaCosta Cup in various high schools. There is no shortage of talent amongst the ranks.
And those ranks continue to grow, as teams now come from all over the parish. Rural teams like Catadupa Primary and, for the first time this year, a team from Maroon country – Chatsworth Primary. It is also amazing to think that participants from the early years are now watching their own sons and daughters hone their skills on football fields across the parish – a testament to the fact that this relationship has been about much more than football.
The Victoria Mutual Building Society is happy to be part of the St. James family and extremely proud to have witnessed the growth and development of the boys and girls of the parish for 25 years. Here’s to 25 more years of growth and development through the power of sports. Play ball!