The British and European football leagues have hung up their boots for the summer, there’s no World Cup or European Championship and the next big event is Copa America in July.
Football fans could be forgiven for feeling a little deprived at the moment – but they’d be overlooking a fantastic tournament taking place right here in Barbados.
With a line-up of household-name European stars from the recent past, the inaugural British Airways Football Legends Invitational Tournament takes place on June 10-11. Chelsea legends such as Roberto Di Matteo, Gianfranco Zola and Gus Poyet will be taking to the field alongside the likes of Manchester United’s Andy Cole and Jesper Blomqvist, Liverpool’s Mark Walters, Arsenal’s Anders Limpar and Blackburn’s Craig Hignett.
The six-a-side competition, at the Kensington Oval, will also feature teams representing Tottenham Hotspur and Newcastle – including Alan Shearer – along with a Professional Footballers’ Association All-Star team.
Former Chelsea favourite Di Matteo said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to think that we will be lining up with and against some of the great players from our own era and in such a wonderful location.” Shearer, the former England captain, also anticipates an entertaining few days in the West Indies: “You can never take that competitive edge away from a footballer but the respect and friendship among all the lads will no doubt produce some great entertainment for the crowd too.
“I love Barbados. I have been going there for the past 15 to 20 years. I love the place, I love the people.”
The matches will last 20 minutes each and the order of the evening kick-offs for the preliminary rounds will be drawn like the FA Cup. Live entertainment will follow the final.
Funds raised will be donated to the National Sports Council Primary Schools Programme which develops youth football within primary schools and a healthy, disciplined and united society through greater participation and better opportunities in sport at all levels of society. The Barbados Football Association is also set to be a beneficiary with a proportion of the funding also going towards its Youth Development Programme.
While British Airways is the key sponsor, others include the Professional Footballers’ Association, The Almond Resorts, the Kensington Oval and the Apes Hill Golf Club.
The two-day tournament is the brainchild of the Barbados Tourism Authority’s vice-president Petra Roach, who said: “The buzz of excitement about this event has been going on for some time and it’s almost here. We’re thrilled to be working with the PFA on delivering this little slice of history to our great country. Football is huge in Barbados and to welcome such a fantastic line-up of Premier League heroes is an honour.”
She went on to state “What often fails to be reported is the fact that these gentlemen dedicate an inordinate amount of their time to raising substantial amounts of money for charities, both local and national. We look forward to seeing as many Bajan people at this event as possible.”
Written by,John Wilmott