Whatever the result of tonight’s return encounter at the MCC in Belize City between UNCAF’s defending champion Puntarenas FC of Costa Rica, featuring Belize’s own Shane Orio in goal, and our national champions FC Belize, Belizean football fans have enough reasons to hold our heads high, following the commendable, respect-gaining performance of our sub-champions Revolutionary Conquerors against Honduras’s Real Espana a couple days ago at the Carl Ramos Stadium in Dangriga. A good showing for FC Belize tonight would further enhance the image of Belizean football in all of Central America.
The Semi-pro League, and now its latest incarnation, the Belize Premier Football League (BPFL), had been denied the opportunity to represent Belize in UNCAF’s club competition for a few years (around 2001-2004) by the FFB, which has been at odds with the professional league for one reason or another. As a result, Belizean football has suffered, with our image being severely tarnished in regional competitions where national teams travel under the direct control and management of the FFB. But when our professional teams are allowed to represent Belize, the results have been much more encouraging.
Last Wednesday, August 8, in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, home standing Real Espana defeated Belize’s sub-champions, Revolutionary Conquerors, 2-1 in a tightly contested match, with their game winning goal coming in the last minute of the match. And, just in case anyone doubted if the Conquerors’ performance was a fluke, in the return match in Belize on Tuesday of this week at the Carl Ramos Stadium in Dangriga, the Conquerors returned the favor, with a sensational 2-1 defeat of Real Espana in regulation. Conquerors’ Dennis Serano again opened the scoring after receiving a pass from Harrison Tasher at the 15th minute. Just over ten minutes later, midfielder Norman “Tilliman” Nunez was savagely taken down by an Espana player who received a yellow card that could have been a red. While Tilliman was on the sidelines receiving medical attention, Espana took advantage of the numerical advantage and turned loose striker Jose Carlos Diaz, Jr., whose cannon was unstoppable; 1-1 ball game. Tilliman returned a couple minutes later, and the game remained tied until a minute into injury time of the first half, when a Ryan Simpson corner kick found the leaping head of Conquerors’ Elroy “Bibbs” Kuylen, who struck gold for the 2-1 lead going into the intermission.
The story of the second half was the stellar and heroic performance of Conquerors’ goalkeeper, Woodrow West, who somehow managed, despite the onslaught of Espana attacks and powerful shots, especially from their main striker, Jose Carlos Diaz, Jr., to hold the 2-1 lead for the Conquerors through regulation and the three minutes of injury time. Finally, the long whistle and the sweet taste of victory, 2-1, for the Conquerors; but it wasn’t all over yet. With both clubs tied in goal aggregate after two games with identical 2-1 scores, competition rules required penalty kicks to decide which team advances in the tournament; and it was Real Espana winning the penalty duel 4-2. Incidentally, the controversial veteran Norman “Tilliman” Nunez, who the FFB has failed to include in our national teams, was the midfield general leading the Conquerors in this historic series that has earned a handsome measure of respect for Belize.
Belize’s other representative in this year’s UNCAF tournament, FC Belize, did not fare as well, despite a gallant effort, in their first game with Puntarenas FC, losing 3-nil in Costa Rica last week Tuesday, August 7. Tonight, the home boys will try to turn up the heat and prove why they are the national champions. Puntarenas FC is a top quality opponent, though, and few knowledgeable fans give FC Belize much of a chance to return the 3-nil score to Puntarenas. But our teams have traditionally done much better at home, and Belizean fans will be riding hard for a win tonight.
Noteworthy is the fact that in Costa Rica, Puntarenas fans were seen via Gol TV waving the Belizean flag beside their Costa Rican flag, no doubt in respect and appreciation for their Belizean goalkeeper, Shane Orio. Belizeans will all be 100 per cent behind our home team FC Belize tonight; but if we lose, it won’t hurt as much as it would if our boy, Shane, was not with the winners. Respect is due to the Puntarenas/Costa Rican fans.