The Barbados International Masters Football Festival is one of the biggest masters football tournaments held in the Caribbean attracting teams from the UK, North America and neighbouring islands. The festival is held at the end of May every year with two divisions (over 40s and over 50s) vying for bragging rights and the championship trophy.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE BARBADOS INTERNATIONAL MASTERS FOOTBALL FESTIVAL
After our recently concluded 20th Annual Festival which saw us host 22 overseas teams and close to 800 very diverse overseas sports tourists including Greenwich Pumas, a group of Argentinians and Peruvians resident in the USA and Republika Sprska, a group of Serbians resident in Canada as well as individuals/groups from as far afield as Russia and Qatar, it seemed appropriate to look back to our humble beginnings on this our 20th anniversary.
It all began in May 1995 when the Queen’s Park Club of Trinidad came over for what had become an annual exchange with Wanderers, both teams formed predominately of over 35’s/over 40’s. To try something different we invited local “masters” teams from Notre Dame, Black Rock and Gall Hill to participate in a round robin tournament. Result………. a resounding success with Wanderers beating Queen’s Park 2-1 in the “final”. Following this, we discovered that St. Croix were hosting the “AT&T World Masters Tournament” (which turned out to comprise only seven teams, four of which were from the US Virgin Islands, one from St. Lucia, one from Trinidad and ourselves).
However we invited St. Croix to attend our first official Barbados International Masters Football Festival held over Whitsun weekend in 1996. To our surprise, we were able to attract further overseas entries from St. Vincent, Martinique and Antigua in addition to Queen’s Park (T&T) and St. Croix. A total of twelve teams participated including seven local teams following the formation of a local Masters League.
1997 saw the Festival grow to 16 (sixteen) teams including 2 (two) international teams from the UK namely British Airways and Heathrow XS Baggage in addition to 6 (six) regional teams and 8 (eight) local teams. The 1997 Festival was an unbridled success and acted as a catalyst for the rapid expansion of our Festival.
Banks (Barbados) Breweries Ltd and the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc. , recognising the huge potential of our Festival in the niche sports tourism market , came on board as major sponsors which enabled us to grow the tournament .
The popularity of the Festival continued to increase in popularity, expanding from the 5 (five) team format played on one ground over two days in 1995 to a 48 ( forty eight ) team format played over four days on four grounds and six pitches in 2016.
Thankfully, with Banks and the new innovative Barbados Tourism Investment Inc. locked in to 3 (three) year sponsorship contracts together with the advent of the social media, we are confidently targeting 28 (twenty-eight) overseas teams for the 2017 Festival and 32 (thirty-two) overseas teams for the 2018 Festival bringing in excess of 1200 sports tourists to our island at what is considered “low season on the tourism calander.
Yes we’ve come a long way from our very humble beginnings. The key being strict organisation and creating a carnival like “Caribbean” atmosphere at all grounds. We can boast of never having one late kick off in approximately 1500 games to date – quite an achievement in the somewhat “laid back” Caribbean.
It would be extremely remiss of us not to extend our warmest thanks to Sporting Barbados and in particular Clarence and Pamela Hiles for their tremendous support in continuing to prominently feature our Festival in their unique annual sports tourism publication.
In closing , we extend our warmest invitation to all “mature” footballers and their supporters , families and friends to partake in our 22nd Festival in 2018 by visiting our website at www.bimff.biz . We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Paul “Starsky” Wright - Chairman