There is no Players Draft in the Premier League of Belize (PLB) like in the NBA, to improve parity among competing teams, but something is happening in Belize football that has resulted in another monster contest among the top clubs in the country. While one club – San Ignacio United – went the whole of the Opening Season without a win, and two others – Paradise/Freedom Fighters and FC San Felipe Barcelona – didn’t register their first win until their 7th outing, presently at Week 4 of this Closing Season, all 8 teams have already made their mark in the “win” column. Last season, with 12 teams participating, was hailed as the most competitive in recent memory; but this one, down to 8 teams, looks to be even tougher. There is no “light” team in this tournament, and courageous fans would be well advised to be a bit modest in their predictions.
In Week 4 games this past weekend:
On Saturday night at the MCC Grounds, visiting San Ignacio United got a first half goal from Rosny Martinez (23’), but Police United FC got the equalizer from Daniel “Danny” Jimenez (50’) for the 1-1 final score. Also on Saturday night, F.C. Belize travelled to the Marshalleck Stadium, where they fell, 2-1, to host Verdes FC. Julian Maldonado (23’) gave Verdes the early lead, but Norman Nunez (36’) equalized for FC Belize before the intermission. Verdes got the game winner from Julio Ayala (90’+) in injury time for the 2-1 win.
The visitors fared better on Sunday at the People’s Stadium, where Placencia Assassins FC pulled out the 3-2 victory over home standing FC San Felipe Barcelona. Deris “Colombia” Benavides struck twice (45’ & 48’) for his home squad; but Placencia got goals from Kareem Haylock (38’), a San Felipe auto-goal by sweeper Kenny Canul (65’), and the clincher in injury time from Alexander Peters (90’+). The other Sunday match-up, billed as the big game of the week at the Norman Broaster Stadium, saw Belize Defence Force giving defending champion Belmopan Bandits their first defeat of the season. BDF got the 2-nil win with goals from Richard “Cheety” Jimenez (8’) and Khalil Velasquez (58’).
It’s only Week 4 of the Closing Season, and already the defending champion Belmopan Bandits have given up 4 goals, the same number they gave up in all 14 games of the previous Opening Season regular competition.
Two decades plus ago, when the first semipro league was being formulated, some old wise heads proposed that Belize only had enough top quality players to field perhaps 6, at most 8 top notch teams in the semipro league. We don’t know for sure if 8 is the magic number, but this 8-team PLB Closing Season is surely looking interesting.
It has been observed that some teams may be more affected than others by the U-20 players travelling with the U-20 national team to the Central American Games. The team was scheduled to travel yesterday, Sunday.
One more consideration that makes this competition even more spicy, is that FFB President Ruperto Vicente has promised that the FFB Stadium will be ready to host CONCACAF Champions League games this year; so the aggregate regular season winner of the PLB Opening and Closing Seasons will finally get to represent the Jewel, after a 5-year absence from the CONCACAF club competition.
Week 5 is 4 big games; some say the biggest is at the MCC where two of last weekend’s losers clash – former Coke Milpros teammates “Marvellous” Marvin Ottley and Edmund “Buzzard” Pandy are now opposing coaches of FC Belize and Belmopan Bandits, respectively.
Week 5 schedule:
Saturday, March 9
7:30 p.m. – Verdes FC vs Police United FC – Marshalleck Stadium
Sunday, March 10
3:30 p.m. – Belize Defence Force vs FC San Felipe Barcelona – Norman Broaster Stadium
3:30 p.m. – Placencia Assassins FC vs San Ignacio United FC – Placencia Football Field
4:00 p.m. – FC Belize vs Belmopan Bandits FC – MCC Grounds