By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
THE Bahamas, fast becoming the mecca for international sporting events, will now prepare to host the 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
The official announcement was made last week at the FIFA executive committee meeting in Marrakech, Morocco. It will be the first time that any nation in the Caribbean would host any of the global events put on by FIFA, the governing body for soccer.
“This is fantastic and welcomed news, not only for the football family of the BFA, but the Bahamas in general,” said Anton Sealey, president of the Bahamas Football Association. “It is unquestionably a tremendous honour and privilege to be chosen to host a FIFA competition and the 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in particular.
“On behalf of a grateful government and people of the Bahamas, I wish to thank CONCACAF President Jeffrey Webb and the FIFA Executive Committee for the confidence reposed in The Bahamas to host this prestigious event, which undoubtedly will accrue tremendous economic benefit to the country.”
This is not the first time that the Bahamas and the BFA in particular has hosted such marquee events. The BFA created a venue at the foot of the Sir Syndey Poitier Bridge to accommodate the 2013 Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Beach Soccer Championships. The BFA also hosted the 59th FIFA Congress in 2009.
The latest event comes on the heels of the Bahamas hosting the inaugural IAAF World Relays last year and again next year at the newly constructed Thomas A Robinson National Stadium at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre.
It’s against this backdrop that FIFA has granted the Bahamas the rights to host the World Cup.
It is an honour and privilege for CONCACAF to welcome such an appropriate tournament to the Caribbean region,” said CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb. “Congratulations to the Bahamas Football Association for their timely efforts in securing the bid to host the next FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
“We wish them all the best in the ongoing preparations for this historic event and look forward to extending the Caribbean’s warmth and hospitality to all qualified teams in 2017.”
There was no indication of exactly how many countries will be coming to participate in the World Cup, but FIFA has indicated that because of the growing popularity of the sport, they envision that there will be an increase of teams from the amount that participated since the initial World Cup was held in 2005.
The Bahamas is currently ranked at No.6 in the region in men’s beach soccer and is 57th in the world. The BFA is expected to field a team to compete in the World Cup as they did when they hosted the COCACAF tournament last year. The United States nipped El Salvador 5-4 to clinch the title, while Mexico edged out Costa Rica 8-7 for third place.
The Bahamas finished sixth after losing to Guatemala on a penalty shot. The game ended in a 6-6 tie. The other teams in order were Trinidad & Tobago, Canada, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.
As a result of its magnitude, another venue is expected to be constructed, either at Atlantis, Baha Mar or near one of the beach fronts in order to stage the World Cup.