ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – One dozen teams representing 11 clubs are in the hunt for bragging rights in an Antigua and Barbuda Football Association-sanctioned Youth Futsal League. The league, which began on September 25 and will conclude on November 7, is also powered by Generation Next FC.

The official competition, which is being called a “Skillball League,” builds on itinerant community tournaments played across the island in the last year. There is play in five divisions – U7, U9, U11, U13 and U16 – at the Volleyball Arena at the YMCA. U16 games are played on Fridays, starting at 4 pm, while the other divisions are contested on Saturdays, beginning at 9 am and running until 8:30 pm.

In addition to title sponsors Cool and Smooth, other sponsors are Antigua Masonry Products, Skinique Rejuvenation and Weight Loss Center and benefactor The Maria Holder Memorial Trust Fund.

The league’s Chief Executive Officer Richard Santos was, earlier this year, appointed by the ABFA as Chairman for the Committee for Futsal and Beach Football. He credited futsal for making the game of football more inclusive.

“Futsal uses fewer players who generally perfect their skills on basketball courts. This gets more comprehensive involvement, and, with this initiative, we have been able to attract grassroots teams, in essence lowering the barriers to participation. We are seeing a lot of kids, not just with football abilities, but with coaching and management skills, and that augurs well for the future of football in Antigua and Barbuda as long as we continue to nurture these capabilities,” Santos said.

ABFA President Everton Gonsalves reiterated the ABFA’s commitment to development of football in all of its forms, as well as the players across the twin-island state.

“Fustal is a fast-growing sport across the globe. There are numerous tournaments and there is the increasing prestige associated with this form of the game. On the most basic level, it is a proven way to develop skills, and because it is economic, we see participation across communities, on the basketball courts and open spaces, in self- or community-organized games. The ABFA, with involvement in this initiative, is walking the talk insofar as our overarching mandate of development is concerned,” Gonsalves said.

Participating teams are Big Dan Click FC; Five Islands; GNFC A and GNFC 1; Ghetto All Stars; New Generation FC; Trinity FC; Tamo FC; Unruly Boss FC; Villa Lions FC; Willikies FC; and Young Warriors FC.