Feast of football keeps on growing
Not even the forecast bad weather will interrupt one of the biggest events on the local football calendar, the Kappa Classic, which is in its 19th year.
This year action began with play on a Thursday evening for the first time and by the time the curtain comes down after tomorrow’s finals, some 219 games will be played over the four days.
The tournament has grown from 12 teams in 1999 when the event was held on a Saturday, to a record 105 teams featuring over 1200 players. This year a football has been designed just for the Classic with every team given a ball to keep as a souvenir.
New year, in the 20th year, the Kappa fraternity is working on something special to mark the occasion, said chairman Ray Jones, who has seen the tournament grow from the Heritage International Scholarship Trust Pee Wee Extravaganza.It started when Winston JR Jones was the Enrolment Director at Heritage and Clyde Bassett the sale representative at Heritage.
In 1998, when the event started to wane, Troy Harvey, a past Vice Polemarch of the Bermuda Alumni Chapter, convinced the members of the chapter to continue the tournament. In 1999 the kappas took over the running of the tournament. The rest, as they say, is history.
“Us Kappa men don’t put a limit on anything,” said Jones, who took over as chairman last year. “We try to leave the door open for all kids to participate.
“If football grows, and we do work closely with the BFA, then we anticipate most people will sign up to be in the tournament. We start preparing early and when their schedule comes out you will see now that the Kappa Classic is in the schedule. “
This year the Classic coincides with the international window, with the break in the league schedule allowing the tournament to get maximum exposure. The Kappa is purposely held near the end of the youth season.
“The kids look for Kappa and then after Kappa they think the season is over and might not show up for end-of-season games,” Jones said. “Going forward it will bring the season to an end from a youth perspective.
“As far as growing, if youth football continues to grow in Bermuda then we’ll continue to grow the tournament and do our part to try to highlight the young people. We don’t want to make it an elite tournament, but want it open for all boys and girls.
“This year the BFA kicked off with the girls leagues and this year the girls will be competing in Kappa with the three divisions in the girls leagues represented. That’s another reason for the boost in numbers.
“Also what we’ve done this year is allowed the Bermuda Under-17 girls national team to enter. They will play in the Under-15 boys division as part of their preparation for the Concacaf Tournanent.”
The organisers have introduced an under-7 division to replace the under-8s, which means that players are getting younger and younger.
“That brought on a whole slew of teams from the boys perspective and you will have some kids as young as five playing in the tournament for the first time,” said the chairman.
Today will see more group play from this morning to early afternoon and then some quarter-final games later. Semi-finals will start early on Sunday and be followed by the finals. Jones says bad weather won’t rain on the Kappa parade.
“The dark clouds are not going to stop us,” Jones said. “When we do the draw for the tournament, we go over the rules and at that meeting we make it very clear that the weather does not stop the Kappa Classic from happening.
“Every year we make sure the clubs get the message to the parents, who have to get the kids there, that the tournament is on. We’ve seen it grow from when we started on a Saturday morning and would be done by early afternoon. Now we’re up to four days!”
Group matches began on the North Field and last night encorporated the main stadium. Tomorrow, the BFA field will be used for Under-17, 11-a-side matches.
“Tomorrow is a good time to come,” Jones said. “When you go on the club balcony and look down and see all those people, it really is amazing,
“And it is a family environment, with everyone getting along.”
Again Kappa have produced a glossy, 28 page souvenir programme with the schedules and colour pictures by Jennings Photography. Two Kappa “legends”, Justin Donawa and Jalen Harvey, have been featured in the programme.
Donawa, presently in Barbados with the Bermuda team, played for Somerset in the Pee Wee Extravanganza while Harvey represented North Village in the tournament. He now resides in Miami.
“As we prepare for a weekend full of goals and exciting matches, I encourage all attendees to encourage team spirit and fair competition,” Jones wrote in the programme. “Please enjoy yourselves and let’s have football as the overall winner throughout the tournament.”
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