There are some who believe that he was the man responsible for Belize losing its national team head coach Leroy Sherrier Lewis, not long after Sherrier led us to our best performance ever in UNCAF, and to secure our first ever berth to CONCACAF’s Gold Cup.
Tonight, that man, FFB vice president Rawell Pelayo, is sitting in a Federal Detention Center in Houston, Texas, after he was denied entry to the US by US Immigration officials and reportedly hauled away by DEA agents.
Pelayo was accompanying FFB president Ruperto Vicente to see our Belize national team play its first match in the Gold Cup against the mighty USA, in Portland, Oregon. Vicente said Pelayo was right behind him in the immigration line at Houston, but while the clean-cut Vicente easily passed muster with US immigration officials, not so for Pelayo.
Vicente said it was like seeing an alligator swallow up someone next to him, and not being able to do anything about it.
Vicente would go on to see Belize lose to the US national team, 6 to 1. Pelayo, who reports first said was denied entry to the US because of visa issues akin to those of national team player Elroy Kuylen, was led into a room and later taken to the federal detention center.
Channel 7 is tonight reporting that an anonymous source provided them with a webpage link to the USA’s Federal Bureau of Prisons Database, which reveals that Rawell Pelayo, the very powerful chairman of the Belize National Team Committee, is being housed at the Federal Detention Center in Houston, “an administrative facility housing male and female pretrial and holdover inmates.”
That website lists Pelayo’s release date as “unknown.”
When Channel 7’s Daniel Ortiz interviewed Vicente, who had returned to Belize from Portland yesterday, he could not say much, other than that US authorities had indicated to the FFB that they cannot share any information on Pelayo at this time.
The Pelayo incident is just one in a series of distractions and setbacks that have plagued the Belize national team.
Last Friday Elroy Kuylen, who was traveling with the rest of his Jaguars teammates en route to Portland, was turned back at Houston because he had overstayed his time in the US on a previous visit. Kuylen returned home on Saturday, and it wasn’t until Monday that national team player Christobal Gilharry left Belize to join the team.
Gilharry could not suit up for Tuesday’s game, but will be available for Saturday’s game against Costa Rica.
And just when we thought the worst was behind us, we have confirmed that star striker Danny Jimenez will be returning home on a 6:30 a.m. flight tomorrow, Friday.
Jimenez was thrust into the starting line-up minutes before game time Tuesday night, in place of ailing team captain Dalton Eiley. Jimenez acquitted himself well, but his tournament will have to be cut short because his mother, Theresita Jimenez, is very ill and in fact has taken a turn for the worse.
Theresita Jimenez had a health emergency the night before the team left for Portland, and Danny had to rush to her side. Despite her failing health, though, she gave him her blessing to go on the trip, and promised that she would be watching the games on television.
Now Danny — his mother’s health in doubt, and his teammates facing a very big game on CONCACAF’s biggest stage — will have to return to Belize. We are told that the rest of his Police FC teammates on the national team are also stricken by the news of Theresita Jimenez’s deteriorating condition. Our sources say she was like a mother-figure to the players on the reigning semi-pro champs.
Meanwhile, Eiley, who had to be scratched from Tuesday’s starting line-up because of pain in the chest and breathing problems, is listed as “day-to-day” by doctors. He is said to be suffering from acute gastritis, and no one knows for sure whether he will be medically cleared to play Saturday.
So the Belize Jaguars might be short two players come Saturday. That’s because the team will not be able to add a replacement for Jimenez unless we advance to the second round of the Gold Cup.
Our next game is Saturday evening 4:00 Belize time against the Costa Rican national team, who defeated us 1-nil in the opening round of the 2013 Copa Centroamericana Tournament in January. Costa Rica went on to win that tournament in Costa Rica, and is coming off a 3-nil victory against Cuba on Tuesday.
Saturday’s game will be played at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah, some 4,000 plus feet above sea level.
Meanwhile, Coach Sherrier Lewis is quoted on Channel 5 News tonight as saying that this Belize national team is different from the team that qualified for the Gold Cup in January, and that is why he doesn’t believe it is going to be difficult for the Costa Rican national team to advance past us on Saturday.
No national team has had to face the setbacks and issues this team has had to stare down. No one gave us a chance in Costa Rica in January, and now we are being written off again. It’s a familiar place for us, but win, lose or draw, the Jaguars have all Belize united behind them.
Go, Belize, go! We are proud of you!
(We thank Channel 7 for assisting us with some information for this story.)