By RENALDO DORSETT
WHILE the senior men’s national soccer team is tackling Bermuda over two legs of a FIFA World Cup qualifying tie on grass, the beach soccer side is set to begin their foray into international competition.
The Bahamas departs for competition today in the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship, scheduled for March 28 to April 4 in El Salvador.
The coaching staff will be headed by Roberto Ceciliano, assisted by Stephen Bellot and Julian Smith, and team members include Gavin Christie, Lesly St Fleur, Gary Joseph, Daron Beneby, Ehren Hanna, Kyle Williams, Donovan Williamson, Dwayne Forbes, Timothy Munnings, Nesley Jean and goalkeepers Chris Davis and Torin Ferguson.
According to the Bahamas Football Association website, the team has been in training for several weeks with intensive training sessions conducted on weekends by the coaching staff.
“The team is well prepared and we expect to advance to the final round Ceciliano said. “The team is in great mental and physical shape”.
The CONCACAF Beach Soccer championship has a record 16 team field comprising hosts El Salvador, Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Costa Rica, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States, and US Virgin Islands.
The Bahamas opens on Saturday against Antigua and Barbuda and will follow on Monday against Barbados. They will be paired against the United States in the final match of group play. The top two teams from the group will advance to the round of eight.
“The team has a lot of experience, so I think we should be able to hold our own,” Bellot said. “We’re going up against players who are full-time professionals and they do nothing else but play soccer. Our players try to make a living as well as try to play for their country.
“So it’s always a tall order for us because all these players do is play beach soccer. We expect to put in a good showing. On the beach, anything could happen, so we are looking forward to going to El Salvador and giving it our best show. We feel we have a very good team that should be able to perform very well.”
Teams are vying for two honours, the CONCACAF title and one of two automatic bids to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Portugal 2015 this July.
The Bahamas won the bid to host the 2017 Beach Soccer World Cup having been the venue for the 2013 CONCACAF qualification tournament at their beach soccer facility on East Bay Street.
The United States won the gold from El Salvador, while Mexico got the bronze and Costa Rica was fourth. The Bahamas finished sixth after losing to Guatemala in the fifth-place game on a penalty shot. The two teams ended the regulation in a 6-6 tie.
“It is an honour and privilege for CONCACAF to welcome such an appropriate tournament to the Caribbean region,” said CONCACAF president Jeffrey Webb. “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.”
The event will be streamed live on CONCACAF.com