By RENALDO DORSETT
A SUDDEN thunderstorm halted play on the pitch in the tournament finale, but it failed to dampen a weekend of beach soccer action among some of the best teams in the region.
Trinidad and Tobago emerged as the top team in the Lucayan Cup after the game was halted due to weather with the beach version of the “Soca Warriors” clinging to a 5-3 lead over the Bahamas midway through the third period. The Bahamas got two goals from Lesly St Fleur and another from Kyle Williams.
The Trinibigonians opened with a score on a free kick before Williams added the equaliser.
Headed into the second period, the “Soca Warriors” went ahead 3-1 before St Fleur volleyed the ball to himself and scored a strike to bring the “Rake and Scrape Boys” within one.
As the rain began to fall in the final period, conditions began to play a factor.
Trinidad and Tobago scored off the opening kick of the period and scored just under two minutes later to take a commanding 5-2 lead.
St Fleur’s header would be the game’s final score before match officials made the call to stop play due to nearby lightning strikes.
The Bahamas finished the friendly series winless after an 8-3 loss to Mexico on opening day.
St Fleur once again added two goals and Gavin Christie scored a third for Team Bahamas.
Despite the loss, Mexico head coach Ramon Raya said he sees the potential in the young Bahamian programme.
“Bahamas needs to play to gain experience. They need to be in better shape to be able to hold onto a lead when they get. They need to learn how to adapt to the rhythm of the game and the only way they will get that is experience,” he said. “We [Mexico] have more experience and that’s what the friendlies are for, to gain experience. I think once they develop the programme they will be a very good team.”
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.
“We have started a new cycle. The idea is to start our path here in the Bahamas and to finish at this same location at the 2017 Beach Soccer World Cup,” Raya said. “After the world cup we haven’t had that much activity. We then got the invitation to the Lucayan Cup. It was an easy decision to accept the invitation from the Bahamas knowing that this is the location of a future Beach Soccer World Cup.”
The most surprising result of the Cup was Trinidad and Tobago’s 5-4 result over Mexico on day two.
“Soca Warriors” head coach Benny Astorga said despite the fact that it was just a friendly, the win was a major win for his country’s beach soccer programme.
“It was a good victory for the team. My team needed this, we’ve been at it for about four years and the first team we ever played in the World Cup Qualifiers was Mexico and they beat us 9-1, so it’s good to see that we closed the gap,” he said. “T and T is well on its way to becoming a powerhouse entity in the region, in CONCACAF, in beach soccer.”
Team Bahamas’ roster included a cross section of veteran players and newcomers, including goal scorers St Fleur, Christie, and Williams alongside Chris Davis, Daron Beneby, Gary Joseph, Dwayne Forbes, Ehren Hanna, Alex Thompson, Jean Francois, Keith Miller, Doclin Absolu, Jamie Thompson, Renardo McCallum, Jason Edwards, Cameron Hepple and LaShane Dean.
Angelo Schirinzi served as the head coach of the team and was assisted by Stephen Bellot and Julian Smith.
Schirinzi is an internationally renowned beach soccer player and coach for the Swiss national team. He is also a FIFA instructor and has travelled the world promoting the sport and ensuring its sustainable development.
He led Switzerland to the final of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Dubai 2009, their very first appearance in the competition.
In their last appearance on the international stage, the Bahamas finished in seventh place at the 2015 CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championships.
The Bahamas finished 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.
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 CONCACAF tournament.