Sports — 28 February 2014
Will the Bandits release Deon?

A very concerned father, David “Manu” McCaulay visited our sports desk this afternoon. Amid all the hoopla and celebration with reports of his son, Deon McCaulay’s signing a contract with the Atlanta Silverbacks in the North American Soccer League (NASL), there is still a major hurdle that has not yet been crossed; and it is causing a lot of stress and anxiety for Manu and other members of Deon’s family, said his dad. Following FIFA international player transfer requirements, the Belmopan Bandits would have to first sign official release forms before Deon’s transfer to the Atlanta Silverbacks can be legitimized and he can be allowed to perform in their League.

In these modern days, Belizeans know that we often do not get what we deserve for our products on the international market – e.g. oil and rosewood. And we know it will take some time before Deon can be in a position to demand top dollar in the international football arena. We understand that we sometimes “have to creep before we walk.”

Deon is not asking a lot of the Atlanta Silverbacks; he just wants a break on the American football stage to prove what he is capable of. Then, he can go back to the bargaining table; his contract is for one year only with the Silverbacks.

But Belmopan Bandits owner Hon. John Saldivar already has a signed contract with Deon, which expires at the end of the PLB 2013-2014 season, whose Closing Season starts next week and ends before May 18. Saldivar has paid Deon for playing with the Bandits in the PLB Opening Season; and Deon has “delivered the goods.” The Silverbacks would now also like some help from Deon; and they are potentially Deon’s window to a bright future in international football. The whole of Belize is praying, along with Deon’s father and the rest of his family, that what could be a real leap onto the world stage for Belizean football, is not stymied by a breakdown of negotiations between the Silverbacks owner and our own Belmopan Bandits owner, Hon. John Saldivar.

Saldivar has certainly been involved in a lot of sports across the Jewel, sponsoring dominoes teams, billiards tournaments, and now in football he has reached the pinnacle with the national championship of the Belmopan Bandits.

Early reports were that Deon’s foreign agent had approached the Bandits for a simple “hand shake” release from their contract with Deon, purportedly “in the national interest;” but the Bandits ownership was reportedly insulted by the offer, and preferred to talk directly with the Silverbacks ownership. This is the second time that Deon’s agent has come up short in his arrangements for Deon’s transfer. He had failed to make proper visa arrangements for Deon’s trip to Greece last year.

According to our reports this afternoon, the Silverbacks representative has been trying to contact Saldivar by phone today, but to no avail, as Saldivar has been in Cabinet and other meetings. Subsequently, Deon has provided the Silverbacks’ phone number to Bandits manager Kenneth Budna for passing on to Hon. John Saldivar.

Tonight, we spoke to FFB President, Ruperto Vicente, and he said he had explained to Deon already that, despite what his agent might have told him, it is absolutely necessary that the two clubs come to an agreement for his release from the Bandits contract, before the FFB can facilitate the official transfer to the Silverbacks. There are FIFA rules that must apply, he said, and he will do his best to encourage that conversation between the Silverbacks and the Bandits owner tomorrow morning, and hope that an agreement can be reached; but it is out of his hands.

As we go to press tonight, that is where the position stands, and the window of time is closing fast for the transfer/release documents to be exchanged between the Bandits and the Silverbacks, in time to meet the Silverbacks’ NASL transfer deadline of Saturday, March 1.

Manu’s worry is that negotiations might not conclude soon enough between Saldivar and the Silverbacks.

“This is an opportunity we cannot afford to miss, because all footballers in Belize stand to gain if Deon can make this first step,” argued Manu. “Regardless of what amount of money they are able to pay the Bandits, this is not just about money, it is about the youth’s future, Belize’s future in football.”

Minister John Saldivar may be playing hardball with the Silverbacks people; but on the home front, fans see him as having Deon’s future in the balance. Tomorrow, it will be decided.

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