Defending champions Hill Top, Celtics, Swetes, LIME Old Road and Champion Footwear Greenbay Hoppers head five groups, as a number of the country’s top clubs prepare to contest the senior division of the 2012 Warriors’ Cup football tournament slated to kickoff next Wednesday.
Hill Top, in defense of their 2011 title, will face Group D competition from Premier Division contenders La Bussola Willikies, Villa Lions and Wings.
Premier Division champions Old Road headline Group B alongside former Premier Division champions Bassa, Freeman’s Village and Glanvilles.
Group A’s top seeds Swetes will tackle Sea View Farm, Bullets and John Hughes, while Group C hosts Hoppers, Virgin Holidays Fort Road, Cool & Smooth Empire and English Harbour.
Five teams – Celtics, Liberta, Young Warriors, Shotguns and 5Ps – will contest Group E.
Chief organiser of the tournament Colin James said he was forced to start the senior division of the competition much earlier than originally indicated following an announcement by Antigua & Barbuda Football Association (ABFA), that the domestic programme will start on September 3.
“We want to kick off next Wednesday because the national programme is set to start on September 1 with the opening ceremony and then September 3 will be matches; so we want to finish the Warriors’ Cup by September 2, so that means that we would have to bring forward our start date from August 25 to around August 22,” James said.
The competition’s senior division has seen a record 21 teams taking part this year and according to James, clubs are realising the importance of adequate pre-season preparation.
“Coming out of the Warriors’ Cup last year, you would see a team like Jennings Grenades have moved to the First Division. Celtics got promoted to the Premier Division and they were in the Warriors cup. Swetes came very close again. Hill Top’s situation was more injury than anything else,” the organiser said.
“So more and more teams are seeing the need to use the Warriors’ Cup as pre-season competition and that’s what we have said from the start. It is a pre-season competition getting players and teams ready for the upcoming domestic programme.”
Matches in the senior competition will be played at a number of venues across the island including Liberta, Johnson’s, Freeman’s Village, King George V Grounds and English Harbour.