BELIZE CITY, Mon. Mar. 25, 2019– Sporting similar 2 wins and 1 loss records, both the Guyana Golden Jaguars and our Belize Jaguars entered the Leonora Track & Field Stadium in Leonora, Guyana on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. with one objective – a victory, that would likely send the winner to the Gold Cup later this year in the USA.
The two squads had very much in common, besides their name and appearance. Both Belize and Guyana are English speaking, former British colonies that are situated on the Atlantic coast; Belize is in Central America while Guyana is on the edge of South America, but both are culturally and historically very much a part of the Caribbean. Both are bordered by Spanish speaking neighbors, and each of us endures a current territorial claim by a bigger neighbor, Belize with Guatemala, and Guyana with Venezuela.
But all that didn’t matter in Saturday’s football contest. Fielding a team with a strong veteran base, along with some splendid young talents, the Belize team started the game fast, matching the speed of the more muscular Guyana players, many of whom were recruited from their international contracts in the U.K. and elsewhere. First half was very competitive and exciting, but the speed game eventually favored Guyana, especially when their fast wingers began to have the better of our aging defence line, all of whom are over 35. Belize attempted to adjust our game to a slower pace in second half, but the damage had already been done in first half, where Guyana earned two penalties, one stopped by Woodrow West in goal for Belize, and another goal scored from a shot at the edge of the eighteen.
Despite no recent international tune-up, our Belize Jaguars were very competitive, though our attacks lacked clear purpose and direction, resorting frequently to long high balls that were easily rejected by a stern Guyana defence.
After Guyana took a 1-nil lead through a penalty at the 16th minute, Belize got a free kick from about 25 yards out at the 25th minute; and Elroy “Bibbs” Kuylen’s left footed drive over the wall and into the right “pigeon hole” to tie the game at 1-1 was world class, and will not be soon forgotten. Ten minutes later, Guyana got a second penalty, but West guessed correctly on Neil Danns’ effort this time around, and snatched the grounder from near the right goal post. Nevertheless, Guyana got what proved the game winner from a shot through a crowd by Emery Welshman at the 43rd minute.
Second half was scoreless, and the Golden Jaguars of Guyana erupted in jubilation at the long whistle, their first trip to the Gold Cup secured.
Our Belize Jaguars return home tomorrow, not to a hero’s welcome, but with much appreciation still for giving their best effort. For some of the veterans, this could well be their last outing with the National Team. Thank you, guys!
Belize Jaguars line-up: #1 Woodrow West (goalkeeper); #7 Ian Gaynair (#18 Evral Trapp at 45’); #8 Elroy Smith; #13 Dalton Eiley; #5 Elroy Kuylen; #10 Michael Salazar (#11 Harrison Roches at 69’); #14 Andres Makin, Jr.; #17 Nahjib Guerra; #21 Nana Mensah (#3 Trevor Lennon at 63’); #16 Krisean Lopez; #9 Deon McCaulay. Coach – Palmiro Salas.
(Other substitutes on the Belize bench – #22 Shane Orio, #2 Leobardo Mendez, #20 Daniel Jimenez, #23 Michael Atkinson, #4 Randy Padilla.)
PLB hostilities resume on the home front (Week 11) this weekend, with San Pedro Pirates hosting Assassins Altitude, and Bandits Sport hosting Freedom Fighters on Saturday night; and on Sunday afternoon, Verdes hosts BDF, and Wagiya hosts Police United.