Sports — 11 April 2008
Following a 1-1 stalemate last Sunday afternoon at the MCC Garden in Belize City, the combatants for the BPFL’s 2008 RFG Insurance Cup, Belize City’s Belize Defence Force (BDF) and San Ignacio’s Hankook Verdes re-engage in hostilities this Sunday at the Norman Broaster Stadium in San Ignacio, this time in a battle with no tomorrow, as a champion will be crowned, either in regulation, overtime, or penalties, if it comes down to that.  
 
In their five encounters so far in regular season, playoffs, and the finals, Verdes has yet to defeat the BDF, as four games were drawn, and the other, at the same Norman Broaster Stadium, saw the BDF deliver a 2-nil shutout to Verdes on their home field. This Sunday, in front of their loyal home fans, the league’s top seed in both the regular season and the playoffs, Hankook Verdes will try to make it pay-back time with their first victory over the army en route to the coveted championship.
 
It would be a spectacular end to a spectacular season for the boys from the west, who, though they have not been able to demonstrate the total team finesse and elegant football artistry of the legendary Avengers of the Cayo glory days, featuring the likes of “Maya” Ortega and “Pappy” Smith, may yet establish themselves alongside their predecessors, the “Green Machine” Verdes of 1985-86, led by All Belize stars Erwin Contreras and Benedict Lopez. But to even consider such comparisons, Hankook Verdes has to do on Sunday what it has not done before in this competition, defeat the BDF, something that only one team, defending champs F.C. Belize, has been able to do this season.
 
To be the champ, they say you have to beat the champ; and on their way to the championship series, Hankook Verdes twice defeated former champs, F.C. Belize in the playoffs. But that was still not enough. For F.C. Belize was the only obstacle in the way of the BDF, whose tough physical style of play was made to order for the defending champs. Now that the defending champs are out of the picture, the army is in a commanding position. If Leech Jimenez cannot recover in time for Sunday, Verdes might well receive their marching orders from the army.    
 
For the BDF, a victory on Sunday would be a real storybook finish to a most amazing season. While it has had competitive teams in the past, this is the first time that the BDF has participated at the top level of national football in the semipro competition, and to win it all in their first try would be special indeed. And they would certainly be deserving, although not always demonstrating a very attractive style of play. As their name indicates, the BDF is a team built on defence, and when stressed, some of their soldier instincts tend to come to the fore. But they have added the essentials of a formidable attack, including the person of last year’s leading goleador, Deon McCaulay, and a few other civilian stars which has resulted in a balanced mix of talent, team discipline and bravado. And it has been enough, despite their lack of success against defending champs F.C. Belize, to get them through to the finals.
 
The game on Sunday will be intense, very intense, and more than likely an early card or two will be issued, if the referee feels the need to keep things from getting out of hand. If Leech can play, Verdes’ chances are much better. If Bird can avoid another card, the BDF will be in good shape. May the ref do a good job; may the fans have mercy on him; may the players play to the whistle; and may the winner win with grace, and the loser with poise. There’s always next year.

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