BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Feb. 18, 2021– It’s been almost a year since Belizean fans watched football action in the various stadiums across the country. It hasn’t been a big deal in Belize City, where we no longer had a team in the Premier League of Belize (PLB), but at least those interested could have watched some amateur 1st Division or Over-40 games at the MCC Grounds on weekends. But not even that has been happening for a while now, as the Covid-19 protocols have put an end to all “contact” sports since around the middle of last year.
Nevertheless, there have been the usual controversies and quarrels inside the football family, especially since 2020 was an election year for executives in the various district branch associations, the PLB and the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) itself, for another four-year term.
There is still a cloud over the PLB elections, but it seems that the FFB is satisfied with the current situation, and plans are going forward for the start of new competitions, in anticipation of a lifting of play restrictions by the health authorities. Towards that objective, the FFB has reportedly prepared and submitted to the Ministry of Health (MOH) and Ministry of Sports for their approval, a well drafted plan to hopefully satisfy the Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 protocols while facilitating the return of football to the field of play.
The 25-page document titled, “Basic Protocol of Action for the Return to Play Guidelines of the Football Federation of Belize and Premier League of Belize Competitions,” devotes more than half of its pages to Section 5 – “Return to Sports Activity,” which covers a range of topics in great detail, including Club Licensing, Player Registration, Individual or Basic Training Phase, and Competition.
Recently, Covid-19 incidents have reportedly been on the decline, and with the Corozal Free Zone being opened under a set of MOH approved safety protocols, there is a general feeling that some leniency may also soon be allowed for outdoor sports.
Meanwhile, with World Cup Qualifiers (WCQ) scheduled to begin in late March, the FFB has embarked on a special individualized training program for its selected national team players. There are also proposals for employment of the “bubble” approach to facilitate some competitive training for the team in the weeks preceding their international matches. According to a source, close to ten foreign based Belizean players are expected to join the national team for the upcoming WCQ games.
Nevertheless, these remain serious times with regard to the still present and dangerous Covid-19 virus, and so, as in international matches elsewhere, fans will not be allowed in the stadium to witness our home games. In fact, because of the delay in obtaining approval from MOH in time for the CONCACAF deadline this week, Belize’s first “home” game, scheduled for March 30 against Turks & Caicos Islands, will have to be played abroad, most likely in the Dominican Republic.
Belize’s upcoming WCQ schedule this year sees us travelling to Haiti for our match on March 25; Belize hosts Turks & Caicos Islands on March 30 (likely in Dominican Republic); the Belize national team goes to Nicaragua for our match on June 4; and Belize hosts St. Lucia on June 8, hopefully in Belize.