Posted: Friday, February 19, 2021. 10:19 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: In its official announcement issued Thursday calling 23 National A-Team players to camp beginning on Monday, February 22 to begin preparing for the qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar, the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) hid the lead, of sorts.
After discussing its plans for training and announcing that the team would train in a ‘bubble’, it almost casually stated the following: “Belize is scheduled to play their first match of the World Cup Qualifiers in Haiti on March 25th, 2021, and their second match against Turks and Caicos on March 30th, 2021 in the Estadio Pan Americano in San Cristobal, Dominican Republic.”
This would be the first time Belize has played a home international match outside of Belize since the infamous sojourn to Guatemala City in 2012 to face St Kitts and Nevis during World Cup qualifiers for 2014. Belize won that series on aggregate, then lost in the second round to Mexico where the home game was also played outside Belize, in Houston, Texas.
This time, there is a convenient excuse – the threat of COVID-19, which cost our national football club champions Verdes FC their spot in the CONCACAF League last October when several of their players and coaches fell ill while en route to the Dominican Republic to play Arcahaie F.C. of Haiti.
We understand that CONCACAF needed confirmation of where Belize would play this week and that the Government failed to give permission; the FFB said it could not wait.
It was noted that other regional countries, for example, Barbados, would be playing outside of home, and Haiti almost met the same fate except that FIFA certified its stadium just this week.
We are told that the Federation has been in constant dialogue to find a solution to bring back football at the club and national level and that if it were solely up to the Federation, they would want the game here, but it is not.
It has been pointed out that the game will not be played with fans in the stands for obvious reasons so that Turks and Caicos need only find their way here maybe 7 to 14 days beforehand, be tested, and shuttled to their Gold Standard hotel in Belmopan or elsewhere, and be ready to train.
Belize is facing, in order, Haiti away, Turks and Caicos Islands “home”, Nicaragua away, and Saint Lucia home, the latter two in June. The top team in the group advances to the second round.
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