The YESI (Youth Empowerment Soccer International) organization can boast of three of its players taking part in the world renowned Gothia Cup, which was recently held in Gothenburg, Sweden. The event is an international youth association football tournament organized by professional football club BK Häcken, and has been held annually since 1975.
Oliver Mariategui, Larry Noel and Elijah Mitchell, a member of The Bahamas’ Under-17 Boys National Team, along with Coach Alex Thompson, joined Southampton Town United from Long Island, New York, for the competition.
The Gothia Cup is Sweden’s largest annual event and the biggest youth soccer tournament in the world. This year, it featured teams from 59 countries, and has accommodated a number of stars in the sport of soccer over the years, including Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of Sweden, Andrea Pirlo, of Italy, and Xabi Alonso, of Spain. This was the first time that home grown Bahamian talent competed in this competition.
This is a huge accomplishment for the sport in The Bahamas with major thanks going to both Southampton Town United and the Bahamas Football Association (BFA), without both of whom this wouldn’t have been possible, said Coach Thompson.
Thompson also said that this is a major accomplishment for the non-profit organization YESI that was founded by former national team standout and former professional player Happy Hall. The program is based out of Gambier here in New Providence, and has been in existence for eight years.
Mariategui and Noel are two long-standing members of the program, which actually started as an after school activity in the Gambier community, looking to offer young children soccer and educational opportunities. Today the program has produced talent that has garnered scholarships Windsor School, the Meridian School, Aquinas College and Blairwood Academy. The trio of Bahamians who took part in the Gothia Cup have all received football scholarships to the prestigious Darlington School Soccer Academy, in Rome, Georgia, USA. The academy has a history of attracting Bahamians through football scholarships. The trio start this fall.
During their competition in Sweden, the Bahamian boys played in the under-17 bracket, competing on Southampton Town United and in a category with a total of 174 teams. Their group consisted of Eskilsminne IF of Sweden, Lorenskøg IF of Denmark and Skalborg SK of Norway. Southampton finished the group stage with three wins and no losses.
The boys all commanded starting roles with Mariategui in center attacking midfield with two assists, Noel as a striker who had one goal and an assist, and Mitchell as a right wing back who was extremely consistent on the back line.
The team had a bye into the round of 64 and was eventually knocked out in the round of 32 by a Malaysian side, KL Youth Soccer.
An overall rich experience, the boys proved that the homegrown talent of The Bahamas is capable of performing at a higher level when given an opportunity.