By RENALDO DORSETT
AS the build up for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 continues, local stakeholders continue to promote the country and the upcoming historic event to the international beach soccer community.
Bahamas Football Association President Anton Sealey and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Dr Daniel Johnson spoke about the event in a series of interviews with Beach Soccer Worldwide during the latest World Cup Qualifier in Jesolo, Italy.
In an event expected to revolutionise the sport in the country, 16 teams from around the world will be taking part in the tournament hosted April 27 to May 7, 2017 at the new beach soccer stadium, currently under construction near the Nassau side of the Paradise Island Bridge.
The new beach soccer facility at the foot of the Sir Sidney Poitier Bridge has an expected completion date of November this year.
“Bahamians are naturally a very passionate people and we get passionate about the things that we love. I think you will see that once this game is introduced to them fully and at the World Cup level they will get behind it and support it very enthusiastically,” Sealey said.
“Naturally, once the kids [home] and the clubs [home] see the level of play, the skill involved, the organisation involved, it will naturally give us an initial boost. The challenge for the administrators in the BFA is to maintain the obvious passion that we know will come with this game and the obvious interest that will accrue once they have witnessed this level of play. People will automatically be turned on to the game and the challenge for the administration is to maintain that enthusiasm and excitement. We know that competitions such as this always raises the level of excitement and interest. You will find people coming out who have never come to a beach soccer match or any football match in the past.”
Switzerland, Portugal, Italy and Poland advanced to the tournament at the qualifier in Italy, joining Tahiti and the Bahamas as teams that have qualified thus far.
Over the next few months, the remaining 10 teams will be determined in five additional qualifiers.
“The matches I saw were very physical and I think that is the aspect of the game the Bahamas’ team will have to work on over the next few months to give a quality showing at the World Cup,” Sealey said.
The focus of the discussion centred on the Bahamas’ role as hosts.
“For those who are coming into the Bahamas for the first time, one of the things they will be immediately impressed with is the warmth and friendliness of our people. That’s our business, our number one industry is tourism so we take it very personal when visitors come to our country to make them feel welcome and make them want to return. I think that after this World Cup you will find that people who have visited us will definitely want to comeback,” Sealey said.
“And for us as a country, having welcomed 15 nations in the world to our shores, the infrastructure left behind will be a legacy to future beach soccer players and soccer players on the whole. They will understand that this is their game, the World Cup is their World Cup and they will take a personal interest and own the competition.”
The Bahamas was prominently featured at the qualifier in Italy and according to Beach Soccer Worldwide, the branding associated with the tournament was viewed by over 250 million households globally. Additionally, there were over 150,000 viewers via the web live stream.
Dr Johnson insisted that beach soccer and the Bahamas are a perfect match.
“All around the world people are beginning to get excited about this. People have heard that we have the nicest beaches in the world and they will get to see that is probably true. What we have in beaches, what we have in charisma and what the sport brings to the country is a match made in heaven,” he said.
“I think this is a new era for us and our tourism product. The world knows ‘It’s Better in the Bahamas’ but they don’t yet know what is better in the Bahamas. We have always had sun, sand and sea and we are now going to add sports to that profile. We have gone global, the five continents will be represented and the Bahamas will be the stage for this event.”
The look and emblem of the event were unveiled at an official launch event in July.
According to the Local Organising Committee, the emblem is intended to reflect the positive uplifting nature of the tournament and the local culture of the host country. The emblem uses the shape of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Official Trophy as the canvas and the vivid colours reflect the pristine landscape and culture of the host country.
“The official emblem is a testament to the beauty of The Bahamas and the great appeal of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. We are delighted to unveil this iconic emblem along with the tournament’s official look, inviting beach soccer fans to join what promises to be an exciting and colourful event”, said Thierry Weil, FIFA marketing director.
Official information on the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 can be found at fifa.com/beachsoccerworldcup.
You can follow Team Bahamas at https://www.facebook.com/beachsoccer2017