By RENALDO DORSETT
WHILE the grass version of the game may have declined for the Bahamas at the international level, beach soccer continues to thrive as the country gets set to host regional competition and players get an early test in preparation for the 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
The Bahamas Football Association is scheduled to host the Lucayan Cup October 9-11 at the Beach Soccer and Fustal facility, Malcolm Park.
The battle for the cup will include a trio of international friendlies featuring the hosts, Trinidad and Tobago and Mexico.
The Bahamas opens competition against Mexico 6:30pm Friday. They will have the following day off when Trinidad and Tobago faces Mexico, 4pm October 10.
The Bahamians and Trinibagonians will face off in the final match 4pm Sunday. General admission for each game is $5 and the event is sponsored by the Ministry of Tourism, Heineken, Toyota and Bahamas Waste.
The Bahamas is currently ranked fifth in the CONCACAF region and No.50 overall.
Mexico is top ranked in CONCACAF and No. 8 in the world, while Trinidad is ranked seventh in the region and No.53 in the world.
Team Bahamas has a cross section of veteran players and newcomers including Chris Davis, Daron Beneby, Kyle Williams, Gary Joseph, Dwayne Forbes, Ehren Hanna, Lesly St Fleur, Gavin Christie, Torin Ferguson, Valin Bodie, Alex Thompson, Jean Francois, Keith Miller, Doclin Absolu, Jamie Thompson, Renardo McCallum, Jason Edwards, Cameron Hepple, Nesley Jean, LaShane Dean and Julian Smith.
Angelo Schirinzi is the head coach of the team that will be assisted by Stephen Bellot and Julian Smith. “The squad has been in training for several weeks under the direction of assistant coaches Stephen Bellot and Julian Smith,” according to a press release. “With the recent addition of Swiss international coach Angelo Schirinzi, sessions have intensified to daily tactical training.”
In their last appearance on the international stage, the Bahamas finished in seventh place at the 2015 CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships.
The “Rake and Scrape Boys” defeated Jamaica 9-7 in overtime to finish the tournament with a 3-3 win loss record overall.
The CONCACAF Beach Soccer championship had 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.
When the BFA opened its historic beach soccer facility, the first such venue to be created in the Caribbean, it was expected to make the Bahamas a major figure in the sport. That vision has quickly come to fruition as the Bahamas hosted the 2013 CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship, the qualifying competition for the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
It was the first tournament held at the facility which opened in November 2012 and it marked the first time a Caribbean country hosted a regional qualifying tournament for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
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.
They finished the tournament ranked at No.6 in the region and 57th in the world in their debut.
The country further staked its claim as major players on the international beach soccer circuit when it won a claim to host the 2017 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
The official announcement was made last December 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.
The BFA is expected to field a team to compete in the World Cup as they did when they hosted the COCACAF tournament.