By Neto Baptiste
Antigua could become the hub for a combined islands professional football team that will compete in the Islands Cup Open (ISCO), a multi-national tournament that is the brainchild of Chris Anderson, a former Trinidad and Tobago International player who has disclosed that in the past 18 years he has invested US$8.5 million “in developing this project.”
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA), Everton Gonsalves, said the project could provide opportunities for local players.
“He [Anderson] is also looking as the possibility of making Antigua the base for the combined islands professional team, and if the base of a professional team is in Antigua and Barbuda, then you could imagine what benefits could be derived from that for our local players which is what I am always doing, looking at opportunities for our local players in terms of their continued development, their upward mobility because there’s life after football,” he said.
The franchise-based football tournament is set to start in the summer of 2021 and, outside of Antigua, could include nine other franchises across the region, Central and South America, including Brazil.
The initiative, Gonsalves said, could also benefit the historic Antigua Recreation Grounds.
“The Antigua and Barbuda Football Association, under my administration, carries out due diligence on everything we are going to sign on to, and so we’re clearing certain requirements with the government of Antigua and Barbuda because he wants to look at a complete rehabilitation of the Antigua Recreation Grounds which I would put up my finger right away for that, because that is not in a good condition,” he said.
“It is one of the most famous stadiums in the world. The football association can address it, but there has to be certain requirements for the government. I would like to do it in conjunction with government, but government is constrained and restrained as we speak,” he added.
Gonsalves, a former national striker, reminded that Antigua has led the way from a professional standpoint.
“I have always been an advocate for professional football in Antigua and Barbuda, and we did it with the implementation of the Barracuda Football Club. The detractors personalised it, killed it, and now other countries are benefiting from professional football in their territories. When we had professional football in Antigua is when we went to the highest heights because we had footballers playing every day across the globe, and you’re being remunerated for it while playing against high-class opposition. They killed that because of the persons who had control of the company,” he said.
ISCO is designed as a charitable campaign through its own established charity, “Kick Poverty Out,” which is established to focus on supplying nutritional meals before and after school and recreational events.
National Hero and legendary West Indies captain, Sir Viv Richards, has given his blessings for the staging of the Island Cup Open.