Robinson: Women’s game on a crest of wave
Naquita Robinson says the Bermuda women’s team hope to carry the momentum from the under-15 girls’ title success into their own regional tournament in Jamaica next week.
The Bermuda coach believes her side’s Concacaf Caribbean Qualifier final round has come at the perfect time with the island’s women’s game riding on a crest of a wave.
Robinson was among those who gathered at the airport to greet the under-15s after their Division Two title triumph at the Concacaf Championship in Florida last Tuesday.
And she has challenged her senior players to emulate their younger counterparts by ensuring they, too, return home to a hero’s welcome.
“I said to the guys, ‘You’re now in the same position to get that feeling but you have to put the work in’,” Robinson said. “For the most part they have.
“The under-15s and under-17s aren’t as tactical as the seniors but they are more willing and passionate.
“I can’t wait for that willingness and passion to match the technical ability. When that happens, we will see something magical.”
Bermuda will face the host nation, Antigua & Barbuda, Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago, with the top three teams advancing to the Concacaf Championship in the United States in October.
Despite missing key players Aaliya Nolan and Leah Smith through injury, Robinson is confident her side can achieve their qualifying objective.
“The girls are tuned in and know what’s at stake — they’re up for it,” said Robinson, whose side posted a pair of wins over Oneonta College from New York at BFA Field last week.
“Aaliya and Leah will definitely be missed, there’s no denying that. But we have full confidence in the players who will be doing their jobs. We may have to play a little differently tactically.”
Robinson admits Antigua and Cuba are unknown quantities but expects Bermuda to be more than equal to the task against Jamaica and Trinidad.
Bermuda reached the final round after topping their qualifying group in Guyana in May, with wins over Surinam and Barbados.
“We watched Jamaica at the CAC Games [Central American and Caribbean Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, last month] so we know what they bring,” she said. “We don’t know too much about Antigua and Cuba.
“We’ve played against Trinidad a lot and I know we’re doing more with our women’s programme than they are. I definitely feel we can be in the top three.”
The team will be captained by Marly Christian who had the chance to play for Jamaica, her father’s birthplace, but opted for Bermuda where she holds citizenship through her mother.
Christian, who also captains Howard University in Washington, DC, was approached by Robinson after the defender was first interviewed by SportsMax, the Jamaican broadcaster, in 2014.
“Her mom said she can’t guarantee we will have fans for the first game,” said Robinson, whose side headed to New York yesterday before travelling to Jamaica this weekend.
“She’s bought a bunch of Bermuda jerseys and taken them to Jamaica and said that every other game [than against Jamaica] Marley’s Jamaican family will be rooting for Bermuda.
“We will take the first game on the chin and hurt their feelings when we beat them. Then they will have no choice but to root for us!”
Once the butt of jokes, the Bermudian women’s game has grown exponentially over the past few years, which Robinson puts down to a busier international schedule and fast-tracking players from a young age.
“Look at Danni Watson, she’s just gone 15 and made her debut for the under-20s at 12,” she said.
“She’s captained the under-15s and under-17s. The importance of these girls playing in tournaments year after year is behind the rise [of women’s football in Bermuda].
“We sat down and said, ‘We need to have a working group of players as we don’t have a league’. We need games so these girls can get the exposure.
“The majority of this team are under-20 and under-17 and have been playing consistently in qualifiers.
“They have been working with Vance [Brown], Aaron [Denkins] and myself for such a long time.”