It’s just not going to be the same’
There is nothing more Bermudian than Cup Match and the game’s cancellation will leave a huge hole in the calendar of cultural events.
The Cup Match holiday traditionally brings with it a variety of other entertainment, including Cup Match Summer Splash concerts, the traitional raft-up in the West End and the Bacchanal Run, apart from the historic two-day cricket match and celebration of emancipation.
However, the Government said the cultural aspects of Cup Match will still be celebrated, even if the annual clash between the red and blue of Somerset, the holders, and the dark and light blue of St George’s Cricket Clubs will not go ahead on July 30 and 31.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Community Affairs and Sport added: “To be clear, the cricket match may be cancelled, but the cultural and historical relevance of the Cup Match holiday will still be observed by the ministry, in conjunction with both clubs.”
Patrina O’Connor-Paynter, the managing director of mentoring programme Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Bermuda and a former Power FM radio host, said she was a diehard Somerset fan and supporter of Cup Match.
She added it was like “a slap in the face” when she learnt that the game would be cancelled for the first time in its 118-year history. Ms O’Connor-Paynter said: “Cup Match is huge for me. With Covid everything is getting cancelled, it is hard.
“They said May 24 was cancelled, they said Carnival was cancelled.
“But when they said Cup Match I thought, ‘Oh, no!’. It was like I felt numb. It really is something. We as an island look forward to it every year. I posted on Twitter, that it sounds like the title of a bad movie — The Year Cup Match was Cancelled.
“We look forward to the days off, we look forward to what Cup Match stands for — emancipation from slavery, and our teams’ rivalry. The build-up starts early in the summer in May.”
But she added, despite the cancellation, the East versus West rivalry was as strong as ever.
Ms O’Connor-Paynter admitted: “I am still not wearing blue and blue together, or else someone is going to stop me in the street.
“I have to wear red and blue around this time. We egg on each other on, but it’s all in good fun and it brings the entire island together in unity — it’s absolutely amazing. It’s not going to be the same.”
She said: “I am sorry, but that will always be there. When it was cancelled, people started putting the blame on St George’s. They needed more time to prepare.
She added that Craig Cannonier, the Leader of the Opposition and a St George’s fan, had posted on Twitter: “Terrible news about Cup Match, but we have to respect the decision by the clubs. It lets Somerset off the hook’.
Ms O’Connor-Paynter said: “Then they started on him. The banter is still going on. I’m saying the cup is safe and sound at its for ever home — we will take good care of it.
“Even though it is not taking place, we are still counting down for next year.”
Steve Simons, the managing director of The Spinning Wheel on Court Street, said he was a Crown&Anchor table operator and would miss the opportunity to run the traditional gambling game at the match
Mr Simons, whose father Cordova “Knobby’” Simons was one of the original operators of Crown&Anchor in Bermuda, added: “It is very disappointing, especially as we prepare to embrace legalising gambling in Bermuda.
“The Crown&Anchor plots go out to tender, so people get the opportunity to have the plot of land. That might change with a licensing commission and I am looking forward to the changes, as it will help to protect customers as well as operators.”
Mr Simons said: “Cup Match is an historic and cultural part of Bermuda life. We look forward to next year — hopefully it will be back again.
“It has such an historic relevance — it indicated that black Bermudians were free and we can’t forget our history.”
Shawnette Simmons-Smith, owner of the Green Lite Cafe&Eatery in Somerset, added she would miss the atmosphere of Cup March.
She added: “Aside from the financial aspect, it is a really good community vibe here at Cup Match.
“It’s a Bermuda tradition and holiday — it’s festive and we have lots of tourists coming in off the cruise ships.
‘“It is really disheartening that we won’t be able to enjoy that this year.”
But the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs said it planned to organise a series of events to mark the Emancipation Day celebrations.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Community Affairs and Sport said the Covid-19 pandemic had meant that “we have had to review the way we host our gatherings and programmes”.
She added that the CITV, the government TV channel, would feature Cup Match-themed programmes and the department would honour the “historic and sporting importance” of the event online.
The spokeswoman said: “This includes past footage of matches, interviews with past and present players and an interactive social-media component aimed at engaging the community.”
She said that the department had also teamed up with the presidents of Somerset and St George’s cricket clubs to highlight the social importance of the event.
She added: “We are committed to observing and honouring the historical and cultural significance of Cup Match.”
• Details of the programme schedule will be released later
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