BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Oct. 22, 2020– Despite the circumstances, the Verdes FC team that departed Cancun, Mexico on Friday, October 16, after two weeks of intense training for their Concacaf League Preliminary Round match against Arcahaie FC of Haiti, was arguably the best prepared of any Belizean club team to date for an international match. The Verdes organization is to be commended for their courageous, though some may argue risky, effort to meet their Concacaf commitment as Belize’s national club champion in the prestigious regional tournament. But today, after a number of their players and coaching staff had tested positive for Covid-19, the Verdes management announced in a press release their decision to withdraw from the Concacaf tournament.
It is the wish of every Belizean professional footballer and club to represent their country in Concacaf League competition, which is the pathway to the Concacaf Champions League, and finally to the FIFA Club World Cup. Unable to train competitively in Belize due to Covid-19 restrictions, on October 1, the Verdes club travelled with a contingent of 29 players and staff to Cancun, Mexico for two weeks of intense training. Assistant manager Jose Perez, who remained in Belize, said they reportedly all tested negative before leaving Belize; they had remained cloistered in their hotel and training venue for the duration of their stay, except for a practice match a few days before departing from Cancun last Friday. The team was hyped and ready to make history, said Perez.
But their dreams came crashing down at a press conference this past Monday evening, before the scheduled game on Tuesday, October 20, when it was revealed that a number of players and team staff from Verdes had tested positive for Covid-19, and so Concacaf officials had decided to postpone the match.
As explained in a Verdes FC press release around noon today, the first sign of problems occurred in their flight stop-over in Panama. After all contingent members had tested negative before leaving Cancun, two players were tested positive in Panama on Friday, October 16, and were required to remain there on 14 days quarantine, while the rest of the contingent travelled on to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where the match was being played, since Arcahaie FC could not secure a FIFA approved field in Haiti. Then, in the mandated pre-game test in Santo Domingo on Sunday, October 18, “the other four players and four members of the coaching staff tested positive.”
Even at that point, remarked Verdes assistant manager, Jose Perez, due to their large contingent, and none of them exhibiting any symptoms, Verdes was still able and ready to field a strong team of 18 players who had tested negative for the game. But Concacaf officials decided otherwise.
A Concacaf release dated Tuesday, October 20, stated that “As part of Concacaf’s protocols, extensive COVID-19 testing is carried out on each club’s players and traveling staff prior to each match…”; and that “four players and four staff members from Verdes FC have tested positive for Covid-19.” “Due to this high proportion of positive test results from a single club, Concacaf has made the decision to postpone this match.” Reportedly, none of the Arcahaie FC players had tested positive.
According to Concacaf rules, there was still a possibility of Verdes playing the game at a later date, but there were conditions and risks involved. In his 7News interview on Tuesday night, October 20, FFB President Sergio Chuc explained: “If they withdraw at this point because of COVID and come home, then there will be no penalties according to CONCACAF; however, if they decide to stay in Santo Domingo and come back and play the game (after) 10 days and still with positive players, then the game will be a forfeit and then there will be some steep penalties, financial penalties associated with it. So, it’s a decision that the Verdes football club has to do now.”
Today, in a press release around noon, the Verdes FC management announced its decision to withdraw. Below is a portion of that release:
“In light of these unfortunate circumstances, the Management of Verdes FC has … determined that it is in the best interest of our players and staff to seriously contemplate withdrawal from the Scotiabank Concacaf League Tournament and have our players and staff return home to Belize immediately. This decision was taken in spite of CONCACAF’s proposal to the Verdes FC to postpone rather than forfeit the game that was scheduled for October 20, 2020.
“The Management of Verdes FC is committed to ensuring that the health and safety of our players and staff remain of paramount importance, and will remain steadfast in providing our support to all those who have tested positive and have been exposed to the Covid-19 virus.
“Currently, two of the infected players remain in quarantine for fourteen days in Panama in accordance with the directives of the Panama Health Authority, and the other four infected players and four coaching staff remain in quarantine in the Dominican Republic. The Management of Verdes FC continues to maintain steady communication with these players and staff to ensure their physical and mental well-being are in a good state. We continue to pray for their complete recovery and look forward to their return home.
“The rest of the team and staff are scheduled to arrive in Belize on the 23rd October, and while each of them are returning home in possession of NEGATIVE PCR test results, we respectfully acknowledge and understand the concern that may be held by members of the public regarding any possible exposure to the virus. As a result, the Management of Verdes FC has made arrangements to have all returning players and staff placed in mandatory quarantine at the dormitories at the FFB’s Headquarters, and we are in the process of making arrangements to have all players and staff re-tested during their quarantine period to ensure that they are free of any Covid-19 Virus before they are released from quarantine.
“To our dedicated fans and all our supporters, we thank you for your prayers and continuous and unwavering support. Together we will overcome!!”
(AMANDALA Sports Ed. Note: It is for sure that Verdes FC endured tremendous cost in their two week training stay in Cancun, Mexico, in preparation for their Concacaf League Preliminary Round match. By not playing the game, Verdes also forfeited the substantial game fee they would have received from Concacaf, and which could have significantly assisted in covering their costs. But the risk of another postponement could have multiplied their losses. They could have made Belize proud; they could now use some help from their Belizean fans and relevant sporting bodies.)