British High Commissioner kicks off historic competition at St. Cuthbert’s Mission

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St. Cuthbert’s Mission, founded in the late 1800s by Joseph Ferguson, pieced together another chapter in its history books when it hosted the official opening of the first-ever, year-end female football competition on Saturday last.

The GFF Women’s Super 16 tournament is being held under the theme, ‘We Rise Against Domestic Violence’ to highlight the plight of this scourge, which continues to plague society.

On hand to share in this piece of history were British High Commissioner to Guyana, Jane Miller (the first female to hold this position), Guyana Football Federation President, Wayne Forde, President of the National Association of Women’s Football Andrea Johnson, Toshao Timothy Andrews, along with Members of the Village Council and Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Lennox Shuman, among others.

In her remarks, before doing the ceremonial kick-off, Her Excellency Miller stated that football is the leading participation sport amongst women in the UK and has become a really big thing.

British High Commissioner to Guyana, Her Excellency Jane Miller, officially kicks off the tournament in the presence of officials and players at the St. Cuthbert’s Mission Playfield

“It hasn’t always been that way; we’ve had female football teams in the UK since the 1890s, but it’s actually in the last ten years that it has become a really popular sport. So I am looking forward to it becoming as popular here in Guyana.”

The organisers and all who contributed to the tournament being a reality were congratulated by Her Excellency, who also said that she loves the tagline that was chosen for the festival, suggesting that it was very relevant.

The last 16 days, she informed, were observed as the last 16 days against domestic violence across the globe and it ended on Friday, which was observed as Human Rights Day.

“So today we are celebrating women, we’re celebrating that equality, we’re celebrating women having a place in an amazing sport. So congratulations to the women; I’m a great supporter for ending domestic violence so I think it’s great that we should be championing that here. Thank you so much for inviting me, I feel honoured to be here.”

St. Cuthbert’s Mission Female Football Team

President Forde, in his feature address, underscored the historical nature of the event for women whilst underscoring that the GFF is copiously devoted to giving equitable access and resources to the development of all levels of women’s football, through the Federation’s technical programmes and competitions.

“From the nation’s first national women’s development league to our groundbreaking nationwide network of Academy Training Centres, my administration is investing heavily in our female talent. This long-term strategy – boosted by support from FIFA, Concacaf and our corporate partners – has already paid huge dividends, with participation levels among players, coaches and match officials soaring, and with our youth and senior women’s national teams performing with distinction on the international stage.”

“Most recently, our hinterland-focused national Under-17 women’s team qualified for the Concacaf Championships – the first time that age group has achieved back-to-back qualification at the regional level.”

“And, before the pandemic hit in 2020, our Under-20 women’s team reached the quarter-final stage of the Concacaf Championship, just falling short of reaching the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup. We are hopeful, as more players graduate through our age-specific, professional training courses in the regional academies, that future teams might go one step further to become the first team from Guyana to reach a FIFA World Cup.”

Swan Football Club Female Team

Noting that the future is bright for the female game, Forde posited that the players in this festival all have the opportunity to show the nation – and the Caribbean – that women’s football in Guyana is a force to be reckoned with.

“But, at the same time, we also have the responsibility to use this platform to speak out for positive change in our society. With the campaign, ‘We Rise Against Domestic Violence’, the GFF is sending a strong and united message that domestic abuse against women must not be tolerated. We know there are too many women who live in fear of their partners. The GFF calls on all in our society – and, in particular, our men – to take a stand against all domestic violence.”

He highlighted some of the initiatives that the GFF is implementing to make football a welcome place for all women and girls that included safeguarding training for our coaches and administrators, having a zero tolerance approach to inequality, discrimination and abuse, as well as investing in female-friendly facilities at our National Training Centre in Providence and elsewhere in our regional associations.

President Forde challenged other sporting bodies and organisations to join with them in using their collective platforms as a means of influencing lasting behavioral changes across the nation.

Remarks were also shared by the Toshao, who welcomed all to the beautiful village of St. Cuthbert’s Mission.

The winning team of this inaugural Festival will be rewarded with G$500,000 with second place attracting G$300,000. Third and fourth place are worth G$200,000 and G$100,000 respectively.

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