Harris: ‘I can see better societies coming from NextPlay’

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Concacaf’s grassroots activation, the Scotiabank NextPlay Program, continues to be viewed as a potential source to positively impact the social fabric of the Caribbean region it serves.

Along with the broad-based NextPlay Academy, the participating children – boys and girls – will be exposed to the game in a competitive roll out through the Scotiabank NextPlay Cup, which was launched in Kingston, Jamaica, last month.

Barbados, The Bahamas and Trinidad and Tobago are the other participating nations in the NextPlay Cup.

“NextPlay is critical because what we are doing is encouraging kids – girls and boys – from an early age to get to love the game. We understand that all of them won’t go on to reach the top levels of the sport, but we can rest assured that NextPlay affords our young players an opportunity to be exposed to the game in a positive way,” said Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Randolph Harris.

The head of the Barbados Football Association says the critical element of the NextPlay Program, which targets efforts to help shape the kids into wholesome human beings and upstanding citizens later on in life, hits the mark on its potential to change lives beyond football.

“When you look at our region, we share the same problems: we have shaky economies, rising crime, especially gun crime, and I have always taken football seriously because of the social aspect of it.

“I have seen what football, over the years in my country and the rest of the Caribbean, has done for many youngsters, who would have otherwise gone astray, so if we can harness the good qualities in children from that kind of age, I can see better societies in all our countries coming from NextPlay,” Harris told concacaf.com.

With Barbados a participant in the program and set to host its own leg of the NextPlay Cup, the Concacaf vice-president concedes he is eager to see it all come together for the children, who he says are brimming with excitement to be a part of something fun and socially uplifting.

“We in Barbados are really looking forward to it (NextPlay Cup), and are fully aware of its potential to make a positive impact on the lives of not only the children in Barbados, but those in the other participating territories of the Caribbean,” noted Harris.

Concacaf director of football Jason Roberts said: “The clear focus of the program is for young people who are not having access to sports to be part of this platform to make it to the school’s program and the elite program.

“The NextPlay Cup is about giving young boys and girls who are outside of that elite level an opportunity to participate in football.”

Over 2,000 boys and girls ages 10-11 will participate in the tournament, that will feature a total of 224 primary schools, including 56 school teams from each of the participating Member Associations. 

The teams of 10 players, who will compete in a 7v7 format, will be divided between urban and rural regions, each further subdivided into four groups of six teams.  

Participating Concacaf Member Associations have sanctioned the Scotiabank NextPlay Cup, recognizing it as a top-class youth football competition. The primary partners of the tournament are the local Ministries of Education, which have approved the schools’ participation with the aim of creating a unified competition that promotes the practice of sports and transcends national, cultural, and socioeconomic barriers.