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Over-40 soccer players with Caribbean roots play in tournament in Land O'Lakes

LAND O'LAKES — Old friends and long time opponents gathered at the Land O'Lakes Recreation Complex on Saturday to re-create rivalries of Jamaican and Caribbean youth soccer from decades before.

The event was the inaugural Tampa Albion Masters, an over-40 tournament for teams from around the country that have some former players from the Albion League of Jamaica. The organizers — Carrollwood FC Masters player Greg Phillips, who lives in Odessa, and Roger Gordon-Martin, a Land O'Lakes resident who once played internationally for Jamaica — plan to make it a yearly gathering.

"We live here and we know the facility is nice, so we decided to hold it here in Land O'Lakes," Phillips said. "These guys out here are mostly guys who played in Jamaica together and then migrated to play in college, and met people in college and play together now. Some of the guys out here played internationally as well."

The tournament was composed of four teams from Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale and the Bronx, N.Y. The teams usually play in masters leagues in their hometowns, where the quality of play is high enough to sustain their interest.

Organizers brought in three FIFA-approved referees for the tournament. Lamar Duja, an American who plays with Phillips on the Carrollwood FC team, said the veterans still have the ability to play an entertaining match.

"I like the idea that these Caribbean guys have come up with," Duja said. "These older guys are pretty good. You'd be surprised; they don't need to run a lot anymore. They know what they're doing, so you can't let the age fool you. A team only needs one or two guys that can really run."

The tournament was held in a round-robin format, featuring matches with 20-minute halves. Then the top two teams played for the championship.

Santos FC, the Bronx team, bested their rivals from Fort Lauderdale in the final, winning 4-2 on penalty kicks.

Still, there was more than competitive pride at stake. The event also was about preserving old friendships and passing on the ideas of one generation of Caribbean people to another. Co-organizer Gordon-Martin said camaraderie was one of the most important reasons to put the event together.

"It's good for us to come together again and reminisce," Gordon-Martin said. "One important part of this is getting our kids together and they see who we grew up with and how we are. It's a social gathering for all of us who knew each other way back when, but it's more than that, too, because we all have families now."

The tournament was organized quickly, which limited the number of teams able to come. But organizers hope to have more participants in the future.

"There are a lot of teams that could have been here that aren't because we did this very last minute," Gordon-Martin said. "It can bring people from other places into the area, and it keeps the hotels busy in the off-season. We live up here in Pasco, so it's always nice to bring people down here and to Tampa to play."

David Rice can be reached at davidrice83@gmail.com.

Over-40 soccer players with Caribbean roots play in tournament in Land O'Lakes 07/20/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 20, 2010 6:23pm]
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