It’s been generations since Belizean female softball players won Gold in the Central American and Caribbean Games in Santo Domingo back in 1974, and finally in 2012, it took the little ones to win the first Gold in male football at the international level. The YWAM-Belize U-15 football selection, with technical assistance from the FFB, on Sunday clinched the Gold medal in a quadrangular tournament in the Dominican Republic (DR) that included a team from Guadalajara, Mexico, considered the favorites to win it all. There were 5 teams from DR along with a team each from Belize, Haiti and Mexico. Belize was placed in the toughest group, which included Mexico; but our boys rose to the occasion, after being down 1-nil, and defeated Mexico, 2-1. It was the same in the championship match against the Dominican national youth selection; Belize was down 1-nil in the first half, but came back to win by a 2-1 score.
According to our sources, many Santo Domingo fans knew little about Belize; but they will surely be learning a lot about Belize in the days to come, as they analyze the stunning defeats they suffered from these kids out of the Jewel.
The Belize team left quietly on American Airlines last Wednesday, November 21, but returned to a heroes’ welcome on Tuesday of this week after their stunning and historic accomplishment.
Congratulations to our young heroes and their head coach, YWAM Director Santiago “Santi” Valencia, who says he has emphasized discipline and moral/spiritual fortitude as the foundation upon which his team is built. The FFB gave invaluable support with the assistance of National Development Director Renan Couoh. “He took us to another level,” said coach Santi. It was truly a Belize team effort, and all can be justly proud of their great accomplishment.
Accompanying the team to Santo Domingo was head coach Santi Valencia and his wife, Liliana, who travelled as team chaperone.
The players on this historic Gold Medal winning team are:
From Roaring Creek – Malcolm Daly, 16 yrs; Mario Valencia, 14; Alexander Scott, 13; Eduardo Valencia, 12; and Dale Pelayo, 14. From George Town, Stann Creek District – Arzel Arzu, 14 yrs. From Belmopan – Ainsleigh Perez, 12 yrs; Jamir Alpuche, 14; Rogi Solorzano, 14; Jamaal Tejeda, 13; and Elton Gordon, 13. From Belize City – Dmitri Fabro, 15 yrs. From Dangriga – Karl Haylock, 13 yrs; and Kowat Nicholas, 13. From Orange Walk Town – Marlon Garcia, 14 yrs; and Randy Serrano, 14.
Belize’s Randy Serano won the Most Goals award with 6 goals in the tournament; while his teammate Rogi Solorzano was the tournament MVP.
Coach Santi Valencia told us in an interview behind the Zinc Fence this morning that it was far from easy. In fact, it was extremely difficult. “… there was one point where it was so extreme… Of course, that was their team, and so I had to say… raise both my hands and go, ‘Referee, what is this!?’ And he just looked at me.. and pointed at me and says, ‘You better be quiet, or you get thrown out the game.’ And I was… I was not a very happy preacher…”
(More on our interview with coach Santi Valencia in our next issue.)