Sports — 24 March 2015 — by Kareem Clarke
Belize Jaguars gear up for W.C. Qualifier vs Cayman

BELMOPAN, Fri. Mar. 20, 2015–As they unveiled their new team logo today, the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) presented its latest 30-member men’s National “A” Selection, better known as the Belize Jaguars, that will go up against the Cayman Islands next Wednesday, March 25, at 8:00 p.m. at the FFB Stadium in their first match of the World Cup 2018 Qualifiers.

The event was held at a press conference today at the FFB’s headquarters, which is situated at the said stadium in Belmopan, where the FFB executives explained that, although the team will be missing one of its key players – namely star striker Deon McCaulay – the younger, reconstituted squad has been training and preparing for the game for the past four months, and that they are confident of a victory in the upcoming match, especially since Belize is internationally ranked 41, places higher than the Grand Cayman national team.

The Belize team notably consists of mostly new faces and just a few veteran footballers; however, in speaking about the Jaguars’ preparedness, assistant coach Charlie Slusher told the media that it is part of the FFB’s strategy to rebuild and add to the dynamics of the team.

He said, “This team is 80% more or less young players. We are going through a transformation, so a lot of the faces that you used to see in the past are not here. We are thinking about the future, and there is no way we can develop going to the future if we do not rebuild.”

“From last year, we have had about 6 practice matches, and the youths have been here from November, and they need the opportunity because they have been excelling on their [respective] teams for the past couple years. The problem in the past, is that when they [younger players] used to come to the National Team, they did not get the opportunities that they deserve. The only weakness we might have is that we might not have the type of experience that we would normally have in the past.”

In terms of scouting, Slusher said that they have done some research which revealed that the team (Cayman), lost a few games to a top team from Jamaica recently, and that as long as the Jaguars go out and work hard, there’s no reason that the [Belize] team should not advance.

According to FFB President, Ruperto Vicente, the team is being prepared to “war” for Belize, as they defend the national flag and name of their home country.

He echoed Slusher’s sentiments in terms of rebuilding, and maintained that the reason for the many young players on this team – 7 of whom are under 23 years old – is because the FFB is also looking forward to the next Gold Cup qualifiers that will be coming up soon.

Goalkeeper Woodrow West was optimistic, and told us that they are relying on the home field advantage to be the factor in next Wednesday’s game, although he cited that McCaulay, the team’s most prominent “goal-getter,” will definitely be missed; however, they have to move on and try to fill the gap.

The cost of the tickets for the game will be $40 in advance and $50 at the gate, and can be bought at all SMART showrooms countrywide, and at the FFB Box Office in Belmopan, while Belize Jaguar shirts are available at Dolphin Productions in Belize City.

On game day, chaperones will be present to direct fans to their seats, which are now color-coded.

Fans will be prohibited from carrying certain items inside the stadium, including batteries, pens and pencils, laser lights, and even coins, as per FIFA regulations.

Of note is that the national team jersey is now a plain blue and white with FIFA written on the top right, since we understand that sponsorship is still an issue.

Rumors had been circulating that Belize Telemedia Limited would pull out as a main sponsor, but Vicente said that they have not gotten that information in writing as yet.

During Belize’s last Gold Cup appearance in 2013, Nike had sponsored the jersey for the national team, but according to Vicente, they pulled their patronage to Belize because the country could not guarantee a requisite 10,000 spectators at a given football match.

(Ed. Note: According to a caller on Krem WUB following the press conference, the FFB’s failure to produce a complete audited financial report on the 2013 Gold Cup, reportedly due to “check stubs” held by vice president Rawel Pelayo, still under detention by U.S. DEA, may have something to do with its difficulty in securing sponsorship.)

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