By Walter Reich
A fun-filled Spring 2023 BDO Primary League came to its conclusion two weeks ago with finals for the U12s and U9s being played out in front of hundreds of supporters. Always a favorite amongst BVI students – it was a long 3 years since it was last organized by the BVI FA mainly as a result of the Pandemic.
Cedar International School, once again entered multiple teams into the competition with two U12 teams, two U9s and one U7 team all playing their hearts out. “We want to ensure we have has much participation as possible” remarked Cedar’s Athletic Director John Reilly. “We want to be competitive but not to the point where kids don’t get to participate. If kids are training with Cedar/Manatees we want them to have the chance to put all their hard work to the test by participating in the league.”
Walter Reich, who this year acted as coach of the U7s and one of the organizers commented further “While championship trophies are wonderful to win, we don’t judge our efforts by silverware – development takes time, we pride ourselves in thinking long-term in every aspect of each player’s and each team’s development. With this mindset in mind, it allows us to focus on participation, playing the game through the thirds and thus involving as many on-pitch players as possible, learning the game and its’ many aspects in training and it allows us to play all the kids that are on a team (regardless of their level).” “We have always taken this approach and if the number of ex-Cedar/Manatees players who participated in the recent BVI Men’s Nation’s Cup game against Puerto Rico or last year’s BVI Women’s Game against Haiti is an indication…..we like to think we are on the right track.”
The BDO Primary League provides players (12 and under) from every BVI school a safe, competitive and friendly environment where players can show their abilities, techniques and new found skills. “It was truly a marvellous spectacle these past few months to see so many players from Tortola and Virgin Gorda playing with such enjoyment and freedom.” Remarked Coach John. “The undeniable success was the number of players who represented Cedar International School, showing hard work, commitment, responsibility and maximum effort throughout the trials, training, and match days. All our footballers demonstrated good technical skills, fair play, personality, character and integrity and a willingness to listen and learn every step of the way alongside a winning mentality and an abundance of confidence. Our coaches helped guide our players with knowledge and understanding on how to become a better person and a better footballer and a better team player.”
This year saw the U7 team pick up second place in the league despite only losing one of their matches. “It was unfortunate that the one game played with less than our usual full squad was to the team that went undefeated during the year.” Noted Assistant coach Anjali Sukhtankar. “Cedar lost 1-0 despite having the better of the chances – it’s a shame that playoffs were not used to determine a champion this year” remarked Walter Reich. “We were pretty confident we may have been able to win it all but from an overall success standpoint, the year was special with a number of players scoring terrific goals, making absolutely wonderful passes and quite a few of the players (led by Rafe Anstock) being courageous enough to volunteer to play keeper.” “Highlights were many” noted Walter. They included Shwari Pemberton scoring some ESPN top 10 type goals while sharing Male Golden Boot Honours (while noting that credible sources believe a few game sheets may have gone missing with respect to his final goal tally). It was Leela Mellor who took home the Female Golden Boot trophy for the league however it was her remarkable assists that were the most impressive – timing her passes to perfection with Shwari the beneficiary of many of them. Ariana Quezada scoring a Penalty on her birthday was special. Harry Crumpler remarking upon arrival at the pitch that he had an injury while pointing to a plaster on his knee was a LOL moment. Molly Matthews counting players to ensure we had enough to play a game was always a great assistant pre-game. I could go on and mention something about each player on the team but I have been kept to a short word count”.
In the U9 category, the coaches deliberated how we could/should divide the two teams of budding superstars. “Why not have an all girls’ team” suggested chief organizer Julie Reich. Done! Girl Power all the way. The girls, led by Coach Alessandro played their hearts out every game against some very fierce competition. “The scores were all respectable and the future bodes well if we can keep the girls together and keep them committed to practising!” “As the first ever all girls’ team, it was terrific that the BVI FA and BDO recognized the significance of their participation by awarding them a Participation Trophy and giving them each a medal.” “It was the girls’ courageous efforts in the U7 and U12 leagues that led to the organization of an international game between Cedar/Manatees and teams from St. Thomas with the games played at Cedar on March 25, 2023. In total two U10 teams and one U12 team would each play two games against their USVI opponents. In total over 80 girls all under the age of 13 would participate!” noted Walter Reich.
The other U9 Cedar team made up of all boys made it all the way to the finals! Leading briefly in the final game they became undone to their VG opponents from Ciboney. “Their future is bright” remarked head coach Nick Hollingsworth. “The semi-final match was so memorable with the team winning in penalties after regular time could not determine who would play in the final. It was in the 9th penalty that the U9 boys team would take the win with Max Knock making a diving save to punch the team’s ticket to the finals.”
In the U12 category we had an all boys’ Cedar team and we entered one Cedar mixed team. Both teams would make it the semi finals but both would lose close games to worthy opponents to deny a potential all Cedar final. Instead the two teams would play each other for third place with the mixed team led by veteran goalkeeper (and overall Golden Glove winner) Toby Lane. “The girls on the mixed team were courageous throughout the league and an integral part of the team’s success” remarked Coach Alessandro. “With that in mind it was terrific that Evie Stanton (Female Golden Boot Winner) and Aerin Westlake (Female MVP) were recognized at the Trophy Presentation” – “Isla Meyers would score a couple of goals while Lily Graham and Maisy Sutherland-Pilch would be standout defenders throughout”. Other notable players included Quinn Pascoe and William Sanders who together with Toby were rumoured to be invited to tryouts for a BVI National Team participating in an upcoming U13 tournament in St. Barts.
Special mention to all the players’ parents for their unbelievable support and effort throughout the competition. Perhaps most telling is that Cedar never has to ask the BVI FA for support rwith transportation – there are always parents willing to help with transport, to bring snacks and to shout their support! A special thanks to the Coaches, their assistants and the parents who went beyond the call of duty (they know who they are!) and for chief organizer Julie Reich for everyone’s efforts this year.