BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Aug. 19, 2021– It was painful to read the concacaf.com report on the Verdes FC 5-1 loss yesterday evening to Santos de Guapiles of Costa Rica in Costa Rica. Their fourth goal was humiliating, but the consolation goal for Verdes came from one Camilo Fajardo, a foreign player we don’t even know. Such is the nature of the game nowadays.
Verdes had lost the first match, 1-0, on a last minute goal at the Isidoro Beaton Stadium a couple weeks ago, where as many as six foreign players were utilized by Verdes, presumably striving for competitiveness with more active players from Mexico, Honduras, and elsewhere, where Covid-19 restrictions have not shut down their top league competitions as it has done in Belize for the past year and a half.
Fans are human, and aside from not being able to attend the home game in Belize because of Covid-19 “no fans” restrictions, the large number of foreign players, strangers to most local fans, that adorned the Verdes line-up could not excite the kind of energy and emotion that Belizean fans would normally experience for an international match, albeit of the club variety.
In international club competitions in the region, there are little restrictions on the use of foreign players, but due to the costs involved in contracting players of a high caliber, Belizean clubs have generally not been able to “strengthen up” with many foreigners. The benefits in going with an all or mostly-Belizean line-up, is that it adds to the nationalistic appeal as well as greater familiarity among local fans.
But in sports, winning always solves a lot of problems. And a victory by Verdes, despite using many foreign players, would certainly have drawn much praise and adulation from a wide cross section of Belizeans.
Unfortunately, it was just another lopsided loss in Costa Rica, 5-1, and Belizean fans are just going about their daily business, acknowledging the disappointing though not very surprising news with little emotion. Some will even be tempted to criticize the Verdes effort, noting that a 6-1 aggregate loss could well have been achieved with a full Belizean line-up, thus giving more local players a chance at the “exposure” and a trip abroad.
To be fair, the Verdes organization must be commended for their stellar effort, and at great cost, towards being competitive in representing Belize in the international arena. Respect, Verdes FC!
The bottom line is that two seasons without competitive football in Belize is now questionable, Covid-19 and all, when football tournaments continue in countries all around us, many in front of empty stadiums. Belize is already in a catch-up mode against the rest of Central America and the Caribbean, and with revenues from television rights in our small population being nowhere near enough to cover costs for the Premier League games (when no fans are allowed in the stadiums), clubs may need to seek FIFA/Concacaf assistance and Government subsidies, while the Ministry of Health may want to review its recommended protocols, considering the risks and rewards, regarding open air outdoor sporting activity. After all, sports, and football in particular, in the fresh air and sunshine, is part of our people’s emotional therapy for stress and other health issues. Mask up, wash hands, social distance, we’re all with it. Now let’s get vaccinated, and let’s play ball! Say what, MoH?