TOP teams from Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados are expected to arrive in Guyana tomorrow to contest the 6th Annual Guyana Hockey Board (GHB)/Diamond Mineral Water Hockey Festival which flicks off on Thursday at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall.
According to GHB president Philip Fernandes, the teams are coming earlier than expected in order to settle in and have a few practices on the floor at the venue of the competition.
The GCC team captain said top Trinidadian club Malvern, who has been semi-finalists in the men’s competition, and victors in both the women’s and veterans divisions in the past, are returning to contest all three competitions.
He said YMCA of Barbados will be visiting for the very first time to contest the men’s competition. “Despite a sound out-door record over the past two years in Barbados, they are an unknown quantity in the indoor version of the game but will be walking with a large cheering contingent to ensure that the best effort is made to secure the gold.
Fernandes said this year’s tournament promises to be just as entertaining as the past and the GHB has benefited from improved sponsorship and also solid support from both the Guyana Tourism Authority as well as the Ministry of Tourism.
For the first time in its history, teams will be afforded the opportunity to experience some of Guyana’s natural beauty as the GHB has altered the schedule to permit the time to include this in the festival’s events.
Teams will be offered an opportunity on Saturday to visit Kaieteur Falls or to for the less daring, visit one of the closer destinations out of town that is accessible by car.
Fatima of Trinidad are the last year’s veterans champions and they are returning this year to defend their title, but the local Guyanese teams are also strong in the category as the Hikers now join GCC and Old Fort with an over-35 team of their own.
He said the GHB received disappointing news from both the Trinidad Defence Force, who have been required to remain on the island because of the Caricom summit being held there, and Paradise of Tobago who have not been unable to secure sufficient sponsorship.
According to Fernandes, teams from North America continue to express great interest in the festival but are unable to attend every year due to the high cost of airline travel, so “there seems therefore to be a pattern where North American participation can be expected every two years.”
Fernandes however is not discouraged by this as Trinidad and Barbados are top regional countries in the sport and can field teams of a high quality for the Festival.
Although some teams have had to withdraw, some of the region’s top players, most noticeably Wayne Legerton, who will be competing for Malvern and Nicholas Wren who appears as a guest player for Old Fort will be on show.
The festival this year is expected to once again display top quality hockey with all competing sides in the men’s division showing the potential to take the top prize. Trophies and cash prizes are up for the taking as the men’s and women’s winners cart of US$1,000, a trophy, and medals, while second place receives US$500 and medals.
The veterans winners receive US$500 a trophy and medals.