BY: JELANI GRANT
Bringing Jamaican diaspora, across the western hemisphere, together in a love of soccer, the Lynx Canada Foundation and the Alliance of Jamaica Alumni Association (AJAA) will host their Annual SoccerFest. Eight teams, made of alumni representing educational institutions from all over Jamaica, were selected to play in a tournament for their Alliance Cup.
Teams will face off at Fletchers Field in Markham for the 2017 championship on July 16th. The teams include Cornwall College, Calabar High School, Meadowbrook High School, Rusea’s High School, Edwin Allen High School, Mannings High School, Kingston College, Charlie Smith High School, Holmwood High School, Lennon High School, St Elizabeth Tech High School, St Jago High School, Wolmer’s High School, Jamaica College, Ferncourt, Excelsior. The tournament will begin at 9 A.M. with Cornwall College facing Charlie Smith High School. It was announced on the SoccerFest Twitter account that the City Soul Band & Charlee and Ammoye are scheduled to perform throughout the contest. Accommodations have been made for guests to take shuttle buses from the Don Mills subway station to Fletcher’s Field and back. The shuttle buses will run every two hours from 8 A.M. to 7 P.M. A Jamaican breakfast will be provided for everyone at 8 A.M., before the first game, which is scheduled to kick off at 9 A.M. There will also be lunch and dinner on sale during the day.
Each year, SoccerFest invites alumni teams representing educational institutions from all over Jamaica to compete for the coveted Alliance Cup. For this year’s competition, there will also be a chance for players to compete for the Earl Jarrett MVP Award as well as a cash prize. The award will go to the most valuable and distinguished player of the day.
SoccerFest has been successfully executed for over thirty-three years. Throughout the decades, these prominent Jamaican high schools have continued to display a passion for one of Jamaica’s favourite sports through friendly competition, traditional Jamaican meals, and good musical entertainment. Over the years, the festival has grown to a patronage of over 6,000 and more than 8,000 guests are expected to attend this year.
AJAA is a charitable umbrella organization comprised of forty Toronto-based alumni associations affiliated with educational institutions in Jamaica. They were organized in 1988 and, since then, have been involved in administering the educational activities of alumni associations in Toronto. Along with holding SoccerFest every year, the AJAA provides e-mentorship for at-risk young boys and girls with the help of Cuso International. The project has been successful in identifying approximately 100 at-risk young persons, mostly male, from inner-city communities and the Greater Portmore Area in Kingston, Jamaica who could benefit from distance mentoring and improve performance indicators such as grades, teacher, and peer feedback, and assessments. They also have a post-secondary bursary program for Ontario secondary school graduates of Jamaican descent.
Many of the schools competing in the tournament have built reputations for being formidable opponents year after year. For instance, Cornwall College’s male institution won eleven Olivier Shields. Jamaica College’s success in soccer has been demonstrated by their men’s team who has won eighteen Olivier Shields as recently as 2016 and also boasts footballer alumni Major League Soccer player Deshorn Brown.
This special event aims at bringing many members of the Jamaican-Canadian Community together and allowing soccer fans from all over Canada and the United States to come out to support their culture and traditions in a fun and family-friendly environment. Admission to the soccer celebration is $5 with free on-site parking. For more information, the SoccerFest website has a schedule of games, a map of the event’s location, as well as their social medias.