For the first time in the tournament’s five-year history, two schools from the hinterland will clash in the third-place playoff of the Digicel Schools football championship.
Waramadong, three-time finalists will come up against Annai Secondary in the opening game of today’s double-header from 16:00hrs at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence.
For Waramadong, it’s a turf they are familiar with, after losing to Christianburg/Wismar Secondary in the finals last year by a 2-0 score line.
Annai Secondary, surprised many with their brand of football this year but lost to Chase Academy 3-1 in the semi-finals last week while their opposition for tonight, ran into the defending champions who disposed of them 4-0.
Waramadong head coach Louis Thomas, who has been at the helm of the school since the tournament’s inception, said that the Digicel schools football tournament has helped in his players’ development but said that much more could be done to keep the players active in the sport by the Guyana Football Federation (GFF) and their affiliates.
According to Thomas, his players are not fully engaged in organised football until the tournament comes around and this he noted is one of the weaknesses they face when coming up against teams such as Christianburg/Wismar who play all year round.
Waramadong have met the champions every year in the tournament. First, losing in the semi-finals stage in 2011, then in three consecutive finals while this year, they made an exit in the semi-finals.
Annai head coach Kelly Brasche, like Waramadong’s, also showered Digicel with praise for being the only avenue that allows their children to compete with others outside of their village.
“We want to finish third in the competition and we will be working real hard for that spot. It will not be easy Waramadong have some great players, but we are determined to finish third,” Brasche stated, recalling their quarter-final finish last year and now having a chance to finish top-three.
The winners in this game will be awarded $400 000, while the losers go home with $350 000; all of which will go towards projects for the school in both cases.
Meanwhile, the game between the two schools can underline the importance of much-needed investment towards the development of football in the hinterland region.
The GFF, under the guidance of the Normalisation Committee, recently teamed up with the Ministry of Indigenous People’s Affairs to embark on a massive campaign to help build the game in the hinterland and provide the much-needed support to their players.
Minister within the Ministry, Valerie Garrido-Lowe, along with Technical Director of the GFF, Claude Bolton, recently undertook a week-long tour to see the areas of focus and to ascertain what is needed.
At the games, Minister Sydney Allicock, could be seen fraternising with the players while cheering them on during their contest.
A strong support from the Amerindian community is expected tonight at the Guyana National Stadium, just like last year.