If you took this exact same Belize football selection and made Manuel Bilches the coach again, we would return to getting five and six from these Central American powerhouses. Because I believe that, the first thing I would say is that Ruperto Vicente and his team of FFB officials made a fabulous choice when they brought back Leroy Sherrier Lewis from Costa Rica to coach our selection.
Remember, some years ago Sherrier Lewis had achieved the most sensational result in the modern era of Belize when he brought us back from a 2-0 deficit and would have beaten Guatemala 3-2, but for a late and weak penalty call against us.
For that success, or better put, in the immediate aftermath of that success, he was fired by Dr. Bertie Chimilio, who was then in charge of the FFB. It didn’t make any sense then, and it makes even less sense now, when we’ve seen what Sherrier Lewis-coached teams can do.
Before I continue, I would say that between now and July, when the Belize selection flies to the Gold Cup in the United States, we have a lot of work to do. FFB officials like Luis Peña and Marlon Kuylen will have to do important fund-raising, because everything costs money, especially training, nutrition, and medical attention. It is the management structure which is the constant in championship teams: the playing personnel is a changing dynamic, even during the course of a game itself.
I will discuss management issues another time. For today, I want to consider what it is exactly that Sherrier Lewis has done. Remember, this is just a newspaper column, which is to say, personal opinion. But, the print and electronic media are very important components in the success of national football selections, because they insist on respect for merit and they openly criticize favoritism and other forms of discrimination. Men like Charles X Hyde and Marvin Ottley are football experts who have been featured on Press Cadogan/KREM’s Sunday morning sports show. For future improvement in the national selection to take place, the input of Channel 5’s James Adderly and LOVE’s Ruben Morales-Yglesias will be important. William Ysaguirre of The Reporter has also proven his dedication to the “beautiful game.”
In football, as in war, a general, when he is the underdog, has to play to his personnel’s strengths, rather than conventional theory, if he wants to beat the odds. All Central American selections are focused on control, touching, and pattern. Because they have invested so much money and time in their football programs, they have reached a level in those aspects of the game which it will take Belize years to achieve. What the control and the touching and the patterns seek to do is to impose order on the inherent disorder of the football field. With control, touches, and practiced patterns, the offence can bend the defence to its will, create space for its attacking initiatives, and violate the opponent’s goal.
Because Sherrier Lewis is not presently competitive where control, touching, and patterns are concerned, he has decided to approach matters differently. It appears that he has accepted the reality of disorder and encouraged his players to understand that there is only so much order that the opponent can impose with his control and touching and patterns. The opponent cannot impose infinite order. In every game, there will be moments of disorder when instinct and creativity and desire can conquer. The sensational success of the Sherrier Lewis philosophy took place on Tuesday versus Nicaragua, who clearly had the advantage in control and touching and patterns.
Belize, of course, cannot continue to concede advantages in control and touching and patterns to our opponents. We have to improve in these areas immediately, hence the importance of supporting football programs from childhood to maturity, hence the importance of management, hence the importance of funding.
Bilches was inflexible, and that is why his system did not work for Belize. Bilches didn’t use what he had to get what he wanted. He knew what classic, tactical football was about, and he wanted Belizean players to aim for that. The gap between us and our neighbors, however, was too wide for us to close in a day, or even a few years. The gap existed because we had been locked out of FIFA and because football here had been betrayed by football bureaucrats and the larger Belizean society over a period of decades. Consider. Football had actually reached such a state of betrayal in Belize that the MCC Garden, football shrine in the nation’s population center, was being trampled in bazaars and dances. Sacrilege!
Belize has to offer honorary or real citizenship to Sherrier Lewis immediately. This is business, and he will no doubt prefer something more tangible. But, this is something we can do quickly in order to show our appreciation for a man who was rejected by Chimilio and has now become the cornerstone under Vicente. Maximum respect, Mr. Leroy.