Sports — 05 June 2015 — by Kareem Clarke
Belize Jaguars prepare for 2nd round of WC Qualifiers

BELMOPAN, Wed. June 3, 2015–After squeezing past the Grand Cayman national selection in the first round, the Belize National Men’s “A” football selection, the Belize Jaguars, are engaged in their final stages of preparations for an upcoming game against the Dominican Republic as part of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers.

The first of the 2-game series will be played next Thursday, June 11, in the Dominican Republic, whereas the second match will take place at the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) stadium in Belmopan on Sunday, June 14.

The team has been in training on their home field for the past 5 months, and today, the FFB called a press conference at their Belmopan headquarters to present the group of players and support staff who will make up the team in the second round of competition.

Head Coach, Jorge Nunez, told the gathering that the 23 players are “in 100% top shape,” and since everyone has been “putting in their part” during workouts, he is “confident” that the team will advance after encountering the Dominican Republic team.

Assistant coach Charlie Slusher explained that he is satisfied with the team’s position at this point because the team structure is up to par, and their confidence level has improved since their last outing.

He said, “The whole philosophy of the team has changed [because] the confidence level of the team was very poor when it came to playing. Our philosophy now is that we need to take the game to these guys. We’ll just not lay back and believe that these guys are better than us – as long as we put in the preparation, we believe we can play football [at any level].”

One factor that has undoubtedly sparked poise among the team is the addition of a world-class international star striker in the person of Deon McCaulay, who has racked up an impressive 17 international goals in his career.

After experiencing a few issues in regards to logistics, McCaulay was brought home through the efforts of a group of patriotic youths who call themselves the Association of Belizeans Concerned with Getting Deon Home; and since his return, McCaulay has been doing a superb job of not only fitting in with the team, but also in assisting to boost the level of motivation of the other team members.

“I am very happy to be with the team and to help the team. I’m fitting in very good right now, and everybody has welcomed me back.”

“The chemistry and everything is going good; I’m scoring goals in practice and in our practice matches, so everything is going fine so far,” McCaulay remarked during an interview with reporters today.

During the conference, the National Team Coordinator, who also serves as National Security Minister, John Saldivar announced that due to the state of FFB finances, three players on the final roster of the National “A” Team will have to be left behind for the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers away match scheduled for June 11.

He said, “I think it is important to note that it has been a heavy burden on the Federation, and I believe that the time has now come where we will have to reach out to the Belizean public for assistance to be able to continue with our quest for the World Cup; and so, if the president’s announcement a few months ago had served notice to the general public, and especially to the business community, that we would be later on coming to you for your assistance, this press conference can now mean a notice to the general population that we are now in need of your assistance for this program to continue.”

The declaration, however, comes at a time when the tackiness from the last public fundraising effort to get the Belize Jaguars through their first ever Gold Cup competition still remains clear in the minds of many Belizeans, mainly because an audit of those funds has still not been presented to the public.

At the last FFB press conference on March 20 of this year, FFB President, Ruperto Vicente told the media that an audit had not been conducted because then FFB senior vice president, Rawell Pelayo had taken the check stubs along with him on that fateful trip to the US in mid-2013 when he was nabbed by authorities for drug offences.

Pelayo was deported to Belize two months ago, on April 7, and has since resigned from his FFB post; but last week, things got interesting when Pelayo posted on his social media page that Vicente well knew the he (Pelayo) did not have the stubs, and had only provided that explanation based on the premise that Pelayo would not have returned to Belize anytime soon.

When he was pressed on the burning matter, Vicente stuck to his story and maintained that he had asked Pelayo to take the stubs along on the trip, but simply forgot to ask him for them while the delegation was en route to Miami, where Pelayo was detained.

Tickets for the home game on June 14 are available for $50.00 each at all SMART outlets countrywide and at the FFB office in Belmopan.

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