Gender equity highlighted at opening soccer tournament

POSTED: 01/28/13 1:48 PM

St. Maarten – The call to have more women involved in sports at the competitive level was reiterated during the official opening of the St Maarten Soccer Educational Foundation’s annual interscholastic tournament which kicked off last Saturday at the Johan Cruijff Court in Belvedere last Saturday.

“This year, we are going to focus on gender equity,  whatever the boys are offered, we want to offer the young ladies as well and that is why we started out today with a dance,” said the SMSEF President, David Forsythe during his opening remarks.

According to Forsythe, it has been too long that enough ladies on the island has not been competitive in soccer and the SMSEF wants to promote healthy life styles by encouraging ladies to get involved. Forsythe took the opportunity to applaud the efforts of the other SMSEF members who work behind the scenes.

Bernard Marks and Keith Gittens, two of the longest serving members on the SMSEF came in for high praise.  Both Marks and Gittens are responsible for getting the level of the annual school program to where it stands to date.

This year’s tournament which involves 12 schools with 41 teams in seven different categories have a special significance for the SMSEF, who is celebrating their 20th anniversary. Among the specially invited guests at the opening ceremony was Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams, Deputy Prime Minister William Marlin and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Silveria Jacobs.

But unlike the previous years when the participating teams would participate in a short parade, this year, the SMSEF added fanfare to the event with a dance which was performed by several female students of the public schools.

Another new twist to the tournament is the implementation of monetary prizes for the top three teams in each of the seven categories and that in itself is expected to serve as an impetus of the players who will not only have their egos to keep in check, but the possibility of a cash incentive at the end of the tournament.

However, those cash prizes will not be shared among the teams, instead it will be re directed to the schools training program and it will be a win, win situation for those involved. “They are going to earn it through their play and give it back to the school,” Forsythe pointed out.

In her brief address to the gathering, Minister Jacobs welcomed the parents and players and lauded the efforts of the SMSEF members. “Even when the government cannot assist, they are the ones that pull it through,” and those remarks drew a huge round of applaud.

She continued, “That shows that initiative has to come from within the community and from individuals. We are only a small island but we have a lot of talented people here, I believe that the SMSEF is doing their best and government is going to continue to work together with all sporting foundations to develop and promote the island regionally and internationally,” Jacobs stated.

Minister Jacobs stressed the importance for the involvement by the business community to support the various sporting programs. “In order for our children to reach their full potentials, we must all bind together, without parental involvement, we will lose our children.” Minister Jacobs added.

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams also took the opportunity to congratulate the SMSEF on their celebrations. “It is good to see you are encouraging women in the area of football, anything a boy can do, my belief and the belief of others is that women and girls can do is just as good and usually better,” the prime minister said during her brief remarks.

Before Minister Jacobs was invited to kick the ball to declare the tournament opened officially, 20 children was invited onto the playing area to release 20 balloons into the air and created quite a spectacle above the houses in Belvedere.

To add to the already colorful atmosphere, an all female line up of players of the newly formed St Maarten Women’s Soccer Team Qualichi, played an exhibition match. Those who had the opportunity to witness that encounter would agree that the girls all have potentials, all they need is more time, training and an opportunity to showcase their skills at the regional level.

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