THE FOOTBALL MIGHT of five nations paraded around the National Stadium last night as the Caribbean Round of the Third CONCACAF Championships was officially opened.
The opening sparks off the biggest football feast in Jamaica's history, a ten-day tournament which gets under way tonight when Jamaica play Netherland Antilles.
Last night's brief ceremony was not unlike the Commonwealth Games opening —but it lacked a crowd. There were barely 1,000 spectators dotted around the Stadium as the Band of the 1st Battalion Jamaica Regiment marched but of the Marathon tunnel into the Centre-field, their red tunics a dramatic contrast with the green turf.
In alphabetical order, the five competing countries marched into the arena. First, Cuba, in grey blazers, then Haiti, the Netherlands Antilles, the black-blazoured soccer stars of Trinidad and Tobago, and finally the hosts, Jamaica, in the island's traditional sporting colour, light green and led by veteran footballer Frank Brown the Jamaican captain.
Each squad came to halt before five Boy Scouts, spaced out in front of the President's Box.
From the Box the First Vice-President of the Jamaica Football Federation, Mr. George Abrahams, C.B.E. called on the team managers of each country to hoist their flags.
And as each flag was unfurled, high up on staffs, at the rear of the terracing behind the marathon tunnel on the Stadium's East side, the respective National Anthem was played.
The last flag to be hoisted was that of Jamaica, raised by team manager George Prescod.
Welcoming competitors, the President of the Jamaica Football Federation, Dr. Ron Gordon, said Jamaica was honoured to be chosen to stage another sporting event so soon after the Commonwealth Games.
He asked Jamaicans to give the tournament their full support and said it would provide a feast of football talent.
Dr. Gordon said he hoped the tournament would tighten the bonds of friendshipship between competitors.
He introduced the Vice-President of CONCACAF, Mr. Gerard Rouzier, of Haiti, who officially opened the tournament.
Mr. Rouzier said the top two nations competing would go through to the finals in Spanish Honduras in March. He thanked the Jamaica Football Federation for undertaking to host the event.
Originally the Minister of Development and Welfare, the Hon. Edward Seaga, was to open, the tournament. Dr. Gordon told the Gleaner Mr. Seaga had been unable to attend because of an urgent engagement.
At the end of the ceremony, the players trooped off to watch the final of the Jamaica under-19 championship between Vere technical High School and Montego Bay Boys' Club. The only team who didn't stay were Cuba — they went off to do some last-minute training.