After a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Blackheart Football Tournament will kick off again on September 24, 2022.
That’s the word from Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Blackheart Productions, David “Shakes” Christopher.
Previously scheduled for a September 17 start, the tournament opener had to be postponed by a week.
“The festival will not be held this weekend due to logistical reasons,” said Christopher.
The Saint Lucia Football Association needed some time to wrap up a few tournaments before the Blackheart tournament began. Also, many of the referees have a major training programme on Saturday (September 24), so they will not be available.”
Christopher thanked everyone who came out to support the Big 8 Tournament held at the
Dennery Playing Field from September 3-4, from which Dennery emerged champions after
defeating Vieux Fort South 2-0 in the final.
He noted that this year’s tournament is shaping up nicely, thanks to some good sponsors coming on board.
“We really want to thank the Saint Lucia Football Association, Insomnia Bar and Grill,
Guinness, Blue Waters (distributors of Stamina Energy), National Lotteries Authority, Ministry of Youth Development and Sports, Flow, MBC/Real FM, DBS, Vybe Radio, Soufriere Regional Development Foundation, Sports Saint Lucia Inc. and Button Up,” he said.
Christopher said that, like in previous years, the tournament continues to create linkages for people to benefit from the economic spinoffs.
“I think it was very successful Big 8 Tournament,” he said. “I can’t emphasize enough how
much we appreciate the economic spin-off from what transpired in Dennery over the two days of the tournament. We hope it can transcend across the island where our matches will be played for the tournament proper.”
The playoffs will now take place on Saturday and Sunday (September 24 and 25) at La
Ressource Playing Field in Mabouya Valley.
The official press launch will be held subsequently where the draw will be done. On October 1, 2 and 3, the tournament proper kicks off in Mabouya Valley.
Matches will be held at the Soufriere Mini Stadium on Wednesday, October 5, which will be the final day of the first round, where the Soufriere team will be playing at home. On Saturday, the first set of games in the second round will be played at the same venue before heading back to Mabouya on Sunday, October 9, for the second day of the second round.
On Saturday, October 15, the semifinals will be held at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground.
After a week’s break, the final will be held on Saturday, October 22, at the same venue.
“We’re hoping that people come out in large numbers and bring their best behaviour so that we can really showcase our footballers and get back on track in a big way,” Christopher stated.
Vieux Fort South are the defending champions of the Blackheart Football Tournament, having won the competition in 2019 when it was last hosted before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a two-year hiatus.
In fact, Vieux Fort South have won the tournament for four consecutive years, beginning in 2016.
With the return of Blackheart Football, many teams across the island are already gearing up to lift the championship, including past winners.
Aside from promoting sports, Christopher said the tournament also helps build camaraderie among the youth.
“We’ve always promoted non-violence,” he said. “If you checked many of our slogans from
back in the day, you would recognize that, including ‘Stop the Violence’, and, ‘Football is life’, and ‘Shoot goals, not bullets’. We’ll continue to do so because whenever Blackheart Football comes around, if you checked the statistics, the crime rate always goes down. When football is around, our young men don’t have time to pick up guns.”
A spate of violent crimes across the island, including in Vieux Fort, has resulted in the Philip
Marcellin Ground not included in this year’s venue line-up.
While he described that decision as unfortunate, Christopher said it was a hard decision to make.
“It’s sad that due to the crime level that’s now in the south we cannot host matches there this year,” said the Blackheart Productions CEO. “But that decision was made long before, when things were more hectic there. In fact, the authorities were making certain demands. So we had already gone ahead and planned on not including Vieux Fort as a match venue. But I want to say to Vieux Fort that all is not lost. We’ve had matches there for many years and nothing unfortunate happened there.”
He added: “To those who were offended by the statement we made where we said the gunshots in Vieux Fort makes it seems like a little Ukraine, we want to apologize for that. We didn’t mean to stigmatize Vieux Fort. We wish Vieux Fortians and their teams the best in the tournament and in the future.”
SOURCE: Blackheart Football Tournament. Headline photo: Stock image.