BAA dominate on home turf
BAA’s youth teams completed a clean sweep in the finals of the Flanagan’s Youth Champions League at Goose Gosling Field last weekend.
The BAA Green side defeated BAA Knights 5-3 in the under-8 age group, Hamilton Parish 5-0 in the under-10s and ABC Valencia 3-1 on penalties after the under-12 final finished 0-0 after regulation time.
Now in its fourth year, the tournament — which models itself on the continental club competition — also featured teams from Somerset Trojans, Warwick Academy, PHC Zebras, North Village and Dandy Town.
Featuring two groups of four teams, the seven-a-side competition is the brainchild of Kenny Thompson, the BAA director of football, who felt it was important to elongate the youth football season.
“We definitely don’t play enough in the youth regular season,” Thompson said. “In the top football jurisdictions, especially in Europe, there’s a ten-month football rhythm for youth football as well as the professionals.
“We wanted to do something similar for our players. Instead of having what amounts to six months on and six months off, we now have ten months on and two months off.”
With televised matches from every major league being beamed into homes across the island, aspiring Bermudian players have more access to top-level football than any previous young generation.
Consequently, the concept of the competition is based on the Champions League, with Thompson looking to capture the imagination of the youngsters involved who have been brought up on a diet of European football.
Prior to the tournament’s matches, which were held every weekend at Goose Gosling Field during a six-week period, the players even walked out ahead of the games to the official song of the European premier competition.
“We’ve tried to gear everything towards the young players,” said Thompson, a former Bermuda coach.
“They all know about the Champions League so we based the concept around that. We use a similar format, a group phase and then onto a knockout phase.
“As the teams walk out together along with the referee we play the Champions League anthem. It’s funny, there’s been one or two times when it’s rained so we haven’t set up the PA system, and the boys have been like, ‘oh man, no Champions League music today?’
“We want them to feel like this is their Champions League.”
Although Thompson is keen to steer clear of a win-at-all-costs mentality at the expense of technical development, he believes the competition teaches young players key lessons about winning and losing.
“We’ve been very happy with the standard and particularly happy with the general competitiveness of all of the teams,” Thompson said.
“Every team had something on the line in last matches of the group phase.
“No team was doing so badly that they were eliminated after two games. It’s important the players learn how to compete under pressure. People winning isn’t important, well, winning is important.
“We don’t focus so much on winning that we forget about development, but we can’t forget that the aim of the game is to win.
“We’re looking to combine technical development and tactical development with trying to get a good result.
“It’s important players learn how to win and learn how to lose. Let’s face it, losing is part of the game and an important part of the learning process.”
Chris Garland, the general manager of Flanagan’s and Outback Sports Bar, said the Youth Champions League was a “natural fit” for the family-orientated company.
“Most people have come from some sort of youth sport in our lives and it’s a great way to develop young people and create the right mindset,” he said.
“What Kenny has done here with the [BAA] youth programme is tremendous.”