By RICARDO WELLS
IN the weeks since Team Bahamas completed a creditable sixth place finish in the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship, reports abound concerning some unrest within the squad and a tricky draw for the upcoming FIFA World Cup tournament. Despite this, however, the focus should remain on the bright future ahead for the country’s beach soccer programme.
In case you spent the majority of the last two weeks under a massive rock, here is a quick update on how the Bahamas officially became “beach soccer country.”
Team Bahamas - goalkeepers Torin Ferguson and Ivan Rolle and players Alexander Thompson, Timothy Munnings Jr, Lamar Cancino, Kyle Williams, Gary Joseph, Nesly Jean, Dwayne Forbes, Daron Beneby, Lesly St Fleur and captain Gavin Christie - won group A winning all three games and finished with a 4-2 win/loss record.
Despite this success however, in the days following that CONCACAF run, reports surfaced that some players left off the team took issue with the decision and called into question the team’s selection process. It is a pity to bring it up because I believe it takes away from the tremendous story of success written by this team.
Those reports, primarily shared around social media, earned a response from team manager Jason McDowall, who insisted the selection process remained fair and transparent and that the 12 players selected represented the country to the best of their abilities.
The Tribune revealed last week that Team Bahamas had selected its roster of 12 for the tournament from a pool of 21 players. Of those left off the roster, some were due to their failing the Pre-Competition Medical Assessment (PCMA).
A report by Tribune Senior Sports Reporter Brent Stubbs on March 1 quoted McDowall as stating: “When they play for the World Cup and CONCACAF, they want to make sure that all of the players are healthy and they are not going to drop down and die,” said McDowall, who also serves as the first vice president of the BFA.
“So we brought in our team doctor, who is also a member of WADA, and the Bahamas Doping Control Board. She’s our team doctor and we got her to clear everyone with their medical assessment.”
From my standpoint, this clarification wasn’t needed but the fact that it was given proves that the beach soccer programme in this country is in good hands moving forward.
Now, this is what the Bahamas has to look forward to after the World Cup draw, which was made last week: Switzerland, ranked sixth in the world, Senegal,the African champions ranked 15th, and Ecuador, ranked 22nd.
Yes, you read that correctly. To build upon the successes experienced on home sand last month at the CONCACAF Championships, the Rake n’ Scrape boys will have to show up against the sixth, 15th and 22nd ranked teams in the world.
While considered a tall task for many in the game, I predict a strong showing in the group stage by team Bahamas. I am certainly preparing to see a spirited and strong run for the team because of the energy generated by our home crowd here in the Bahamas.
To be honest I, like most Bahamians, knew very little about the sport of beach soccer prior to CONCACAF and paid little to no attention to team Bahamas.
However, that lack of insight and enthusiasm quickly evaporated after the first two days of play. The energy and excitement on display night in and night out during that run was overwhelming.
Team Bahamas finished sixth out of 16 teams, a feat Bahamas Football Association President Anton Sealey credited to the Bahamian people.
In a February 28 Tribune Sports report, Mr Sealey is quoted: “We knew that we would have attracted some fans, but the overwhelming support that we got from the Bahamian fans surpassed our imagination, so we are very pleased with that.”
He added: “Team Bahamas fed off that enthusiasm and support from the fans and gave an exceptional performance the entire week, just succumbing to fatigue having played six games in the sand in a seven-day period.”
The Bahamas, hosts of the event, are set to open the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup against Switzerland at 8pm on April 27.
• Drawn to play in the
remaining groups are:
Group B – Nigeria, Italy, Asia champions (to be decided by March 11) and Mexico, runners-up at the CONCACAF Championships.
Group C – Asia 2 (to be decided by March 11), Paraguay, Portugal (defending champions) and Panama (the champions of CONCACAF).
Group D – Brazil (winners of four of the eight championships played so far); Tahiti, Asia 3 (to be decided by March 11)