Organizers of the successful Grand Bahama Youth Football Development Programme have announced they are to start a new youth Intermediate Soccer League in order to cater for male youth soccer players aged 14 to 17.

The new Intermediate League (I league) will play every Wednesday from 5pm to 6.30pm at the Freeport Rugby Football Club for male players aged 14 to 17. In order to attract the Islands youngsters and get the I League underway, there will be no registration fee for players in this first season.

The GB Youth Football Development Programme started in 2001 and already coaches up to 80 players aged between 8 to 20 on a weekly basis. Organiser Mark Hardy explained that previously the Programmes aim was simply to coach players and improve their skills without necessarily playing in a league set up. He has observed, however, that there is a continual loss of talent of players once they hit the age of 15 and 16 as there is no league for them to play in. This trend has been noted before but Hardy is particularly concerned now as a number of the players who started with him at the age of 10 are now at a stage where there is no competitive soccer on a regular basis. Consequently a number of these players take up other interests and pursuits and leave the sport.

He added that Originally our aim was simply to get youngsters playing soccer and this has been successful. Our Wednesday night programme contains a large number of younger players aged up to 13. Indeed we also have a thriving group of 18 to 20 year olds who now play in the adults Grand Bahama Football League . There is a big gap, however, in the middle with boys aged 14, 15 ,16 and 17 . This is an age where adolescence kicks in and they start getting other interests and unfortunately there is currently no league where boys aged 14 to 17 are able to play at their own level. Thus even if they are keen to play soccer there is little opportunity for them. Currently we have to play them with 12 or 13 year olds or throw them in with the adults in the mens league. The latter course of action works with some players but Hardy believes this is not the right course of action in most cases noting The womens (GBFL) teams are very successful in bringing in younger players into the adult football (from the Girls Development programme) as the game is not as physical as the mens soccer; however this is not really feasible with mens soccer, where you cannot put a 15 year old boy up against a 30 year man .Two of our best football prospects Dominic Adams and Kasey Charlton both started playing in the mens league when they 14 but ideally I would prefer players of that age to play with their peers as far as possible. Consequently we are looking to work with the YMCA League and the GBFL to build a league which will act as a stepping stone from childrens football to the senior adults league so the youngsters can continue to play the game and improve their skills.

The new I league will play every Wednesday from 5pm to 6.30pm at the Freeport Rugby Football Club for male players aged 14 to 17. Hardy said that, for the first few weeks, they will simply mix up the players into teams each week but, by the end of February, the I League should be up and running with at least 4 teams. Hardy is also asking any local adult players who are interested in coaching to come out and assist in the coaching process adding that, as a member of the GBFL executive committee himself, he will be approaching all the GBFL Mens teams to ask for assistance. We have to get all the mens teams to work with the youngsters for the development of the sport in general and the good of the GBFL league. Currently only Freeport FC (from Freeport Rugby Football Club ) actively coach the youngsters and this has to change. Any prospective players , coaches or sponsors should contact Mark Hardy at 357 5403 or come to Freeport Rugby Club on Wednesday.

Ps I am not a divvy ( at least as far as it comes to english grammar) – reason there are so few punctuations is because they show up strangely when published !