Adam Raimes, the head of academy operations at West Ham United, says the Bermuda International Football Festival offers an exciting challenge and many benefits for the club’s aspiring players.
The Premier League club will travel to the island with a roster of under-19 players next month to take part in a four-team round-robin tournament also featuring the Azores Football Association Academy, the Bermuda Football Association National Academy and a Premier and First Division Select comprising of players under the age of 21.
“The players are very much looking forward to the trip and the opportunity to test themselves in a different environment against players they would not normally have the opportunity to play against,” Raimes told The Royal Gazette. “The real challenge is the diversity of competition. This will be a new footballing experience for the players and staff and how they adapt to the technical, tactical and physical differences will be the key learning experience for us.
“For the majority of the squad, both staff and players, they will not have experienced Bermuda, so the cultural and social benefits offer an even greater experience. All involved will be looking forward to getting stuck into the football whilst also being afforded the chance to experience the local culture and spend time within the community.
“Our Academy squads travel the world and from the ages of under-9 to under-23 usually participate in a total of 50 to 60 tournaments a year. As well as the cultural benefits for our young players in aspiring to play in the Premier League, it is more than likely that they will be playing in a multinational team against players from across the globe, and so to provide them with an insight into such differing football philosophies will prove an invaluable tool in their development.
“Terry Westley, the academy director will lead the trip alongside one of our under-23 coaching staff, ex-West Ham United and England full back, Paul Konchesky.”
This year marks the first time the festival has been extended to overseas sides.
It will be held at the National Stadium from May 7 to 13 and will again feature the East v West match, involving select teams consisting of players from across the island, whether they are registered BFA players or not.
The primary aim of the BFA-sanctioned event is to engage the island’s young men in character-building and break down barriers that exist throughout the community with part proceeds going to various local charities.
Bermudian Clyde Best, who scored 47 goals in 186 appearances for West Ham between 1968 and 1976, played an integral role in having the club’s academy involved this year.
“Clyde is a familiar face for the staff at West Ham and has been instrumental in establishing this opportunity, so we are all very grateful for the role he is still playing in helping West Ham United,” Raimes said. “The organisers, Ulric Richardson [the Biff chairman] alongside Clyde, have been fantastic hosts and the week’s itinerary is shaping up to make for a quality tournament — both on and off the pitch.”
• Jonte Smith scored in the fourth minute as Lewes secured promotion from the Bostik League South Division by beating Horsham 4-2 yesterday.
“It’s been a long and tough season, but we’ve finally achieved it,” Smith wrote on Twitter.
“This is for the fans that have supported us the whole way! Let’s go and win the league now”.