After weeks and weeks of ‘no comment, we’re in discussions, we’re looking to set up meetings’ and the like, the Kashif and Shanghai Organization has formally announced that this year’s tournament is indeed on and will feature entirely local teams. The duo of Kashif Muhammad and Aubrey ‘Shanghai’ Major held a press conference in the boardroom of longtime sponsor Banks DIH yesterday morning to allay the fears of a worried football nation announcing that the 18th edition of the yearly feature was on and that it would be as big as ever. “The 18th Kashif and Shanghai tournament is on and will be held from December 16 to Jan 1. We are looking at having a Surinamese team here to take part in the opening day games,” Muhammad said. The format essentially remains the same with the semi finals being played in Georgetown and finals being held at the traditional venue where it all began, the Mackenzie Sports Club (MSC) ground in Linden. Muhammad acknowledged the contribution of President Bharrat Jagdeo in the form of picking up the 750,000 dollar first prize tab along with all Value Added Tax (VAT) incurred by the promoters. But he brushed aside all questions on what is essentially a VAT waiver which is sure to raise some eyebrows, preferring to point enquiries on the issue to the Office of the President. Muhammad also expressed the optimism that this was not the end of the government’s input, saying that he hoped that the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport would return to the level of support given during the tenure of Gail Teixeira as that subject Minister. A meeting between the two sides is scheduled for next Tuesday. Muhammad said the hosting of this year’s tournament was never in any real doubt despite media reports and some fears felt mostly in the Linden community. “We were never really worried, we like to look at it as a cup half full scenario and we were always confident that the tournament would be on,” he said. At a press conference some weeks ago the organizing team had said there were some issues that needed to be addressed with President Jagdeo and Guyana Football Federation head Colin Klass. Though he did not elaborate on these issues, Muhammad said they involved mainly seeking out what the government’s support would be like this year. He added that a meeting with Klass is still on the cards and will likely be held by this weekend. Muhammad took the time to lash out at the state of footballing venues around the country saying most were in disrepair with limited accommodation and facilities for spectators. Even the world famous Bourda cricket ground did not escape mention as Muhammad explained that the Clive Lloyd stand could not be used during rental of the facility by the promoters and that chairs had to be further rented for use in the Rohan Khanai stand in addition to lighting stanchions. The state of playing venues has long been a sore point for the duo and has also led to some hesitancy in hiking entry prices to games even in the face of rising tournament costs.

He pointed to a project aimed at extending and rebuilding the Mackenzie Sports Club with a 15 million dollar commitment from the Linden Economic Advance-ment Programme (LEAP) and said the government’s input on this was still being awaited. But hitting home on the positives, Muhammad said the standard of play this year should be extremely high as overseas based players return home to take up assignments with their respective clubs. Teams will also be permitted four guest players. He added that the delay in announcing the start of this year’s tourney should not adversely affect the organization of the tournament or the level of play as plans were ongoing behind the scenes and clubs had been already informed to be in a state of preparedness for the announcement.

The teams invited to take part this year will be announced on November 19 and fixtures will be released on December 1. Sales and Marketing Executive of Banks DIH Carlton Joao restated his company’s commitment to the tournament and the people of Linden. “We are proud to be with this tournament through our Coca Cola brand which is known worldwide for its sponsorship of football. We are also committed to Linden, we are embedded there and will do all we can for the tournament and the people of Linden,” Joao declared. The Kashif and Shanghai tournament is a fixture on this county’s entertainment calendar with huge economic spin-offs for the economically stagnated town of Linden. It began in 1989 with two teams in Linden, as an initiative of the promoting duo who sought to given Lindeners an alternative to travelling to the city on Boxing Day Dec. 26.