A small country like Belize has not defeated a giant like the United States in a major sport competition since – well, since Belize defeated the United States in 1979. That victory came in the Pan Am Softball Games in Puerto Rico where Belize defeated the United States 1-0. That is a score that, even in reverse, the previous executives of the Football Federation of Belize would have celebrated if they were in charge when Belize plays against the United States in the Gold Cup tournament on July 9th. However, that is not good enough for the current administration. Ruperto Vicente, President of the Football Federation of Belize, told his team, “We will not only participate. That was in the past. We will not invest and this nation will not invest its money in young people who will only go to a tournament to participate. We are now entering tournaments to win.” When speaking about the objective for the July 9th game against the favoured United States team, Vicente said, “I call on our national team to not only beat the United States but to humiliate the United States. It is your responsibility. It is your task.”
Vicente issued the mission to the national team at a press conference on Wednesday, June 19th, in which the federation gave an update on its fund raising efforts to cover the team’s expense at the Gold Cup Tournament. Vicente said that preparation and participation in the tournament will cost $300,000. A telethon was held on Saturday, June 15th, from which the federation raised a little less than $120,000. Marlon Kuylen, Executive Member of FFB, said, “Since Monday several businesses have come forward and pledged support in terms of financial contributions or intent to host fund raising drives.” Vicente thanked the public for the great support the team has experienced so far. He asked that people continue to contribute financially so that the team can operate in an environment conducive to winning. The federation’s fund raising effort has definitely been hurt by the reputation of the previous executive. Corporate sponsors seem reluctant to contribute because the FFB has a history of not operating in a transparent manner. Vicente said that is no longer the case and the financial records are open for all to see. He said, “We will show how the money contributed will be spent. You have given us your money and you have earned the right to know.” He referred to the press as “members of the FFB” and volunteered to publish the team’s financial reports on every newspaper.
Vicente said that even if the team does not collect the $300,000, the team will participate in the tournament. He said, “The players will be required to make the sacrifice for their country.” Those players are now in mandatory camp. Head Coach, Ian Andrew Mork said he believes the team has what it takes to be giant killers. Mork replaced Leroy Sherrier in April of this year but he said that the transition has not been difficult because “I don’t think our philosophy is much different”. Mork plans to continue the emphasis on defense but will work a lot on ball possession and limiting turnovers. Belize is known for its lightening quick counter attack abilities; unfortunately, the catalyst for such strikes is nursing an injury. Deon McCaulay has been bothered by a serious injury to one of his legs. He recently was cleared by doctors to resume football activities but suffered a major setback in a recent practice when he came in contact with a teammate. McCaulay seemed frustrated by the set back but said, “I hope to be ready in time for the competition.”
McCaulay is with the team in camp and was present to unveil the team’s new home and away jerseys for the Gold Cup tournament. The jerseys are being provided by Nike. Kuylen said that the federation hopes to make it a permanent sponsorship when they meet with Nike officials at their headquarters in Portland, Oregon before the match against the United States. FFB has engaged in discussions with Nike for jersey and equipment sponsorship for its entire national team program. Belizeans may see our players sporting their new jersey at fund raising activities before they leave for the United States. Individuals wishing to contribute to the national team program can do so by making a deposit in the federation’s bank account or by mailing a cheque to the federation’s headquarters at #26 Hummingbird Highway, Belmopan City, P.O. Box 1742, Belize City C.A.