The countdown to game time is on, and come 9:00 p.m. tomorrow night, Tuesday, the city of Belize, the nation of Belize, and Belizeans in foreign lands, wherever there is a television, will be glued to their TV sets as our national football team, the Jaguars, takes the field in Portland, Oregon, U.S.A., to face their first opponent, the hosts and former 4-time champions, USA, in the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.
For a moment, our world will stand still, and Belizeans will be united as never before, and as only a football game of this magnitude can unite us – black, white, brown, red, yellow, blue, green, whatever color, creed, religion, race, orientation or politics; as the song says, “Win, lose or draw, we’re all Belizeans.”
Although there has already been one upset, Martinique over Canada, 1-0, and one surprise, Panama over Mexico, 2-1, most pundits are considering it too farfetched to give little Belize much of a chance against the mighty USA.
Martinique, though small, has been to the Gold Cup before, and Panama had beaten Mexico before as well as making many previous trips to the Gold Cup, and even reaching the finals. (See article, “Participants in Gold Cup 2013” elsewhere in this issue.)
Belize, on the other hand, is considered by some pundits to be lucky to even be in this Gold Cup.
But somebody forgot to tell that to the Belizean fans and players, who are approaching this game as our date with destiny, and are believing with conviction that we will gain respect from the football powers of the region.
There have been many hurdles and pitfalls for our national team in this journey, but our young men have remained resolute. Reports are that today one of our national team reserve players, Cristobal Gilharry, caught a flight to Portland, Oregon, to join the national team as replacement for Elroy Kuylen, who was refused entry into the U.S. on Friday last due to a visa problem.
Finance has been a big problem, but an understanding was reached, and our players agreed to “work with” president Ruperto Vicente, trusting in his sincerity, and appreciating that this new FFB is doing its best for them under difficult circumstances. The Gold Cup is a first-time ever venture for any Belize national team.
Already, our national team has won a great moral victory by the reported action of two of our players, who reportedly rebuffed an attempted bribe, and reported the matter to the authorities. Most football fans elsewhere, except some Belizeans, expect us to lose, but somebody somewhere wanted to ensure that we take a “trailer load.”
Whatever happens tomorrow, the names of Ian “Yellow” Gaynair and Woodrow Wilson West will be chanted as Belizean heroes for showing the world that even though our country is poor, we still have pride and love for our country that cannot be bought. The nickels and dimes of sacrificing children and hardworking citizens, young and old, who contributed in the fundraising effort for our national team, were rewarded by the revelation that our players are deserving of that love and support.
As roots veteran footballer Cecil “Tatty” Smith once declared, “Our football is about dignity.”
We are proud of you, Jaguars! You have done us all proud already! Nuff love from the Jewel. Now, just go out there and play to win, as you always do, and we’ll be satisfied regardless of what happens. Shake hands for courtesy with your opponents before the game; and after the game, be ready to shake their hands again, with earned respect and dignity, and maybe even the beginning of a friendship.
But from whistle to whistle, “da Fire pan di Barracks!!” “Go, go, go! Go, Belize!!” Belize forever!!