Bermuda to face Azores in celebratory match
Bermuda will play an Azores Select team at the National Stadium on May 25 as part of the 170th anniversary celebrations of the first arrival of Portuguese immigrants to the island.
The match is being arranged jointly by the Bermuda Football Association and Vasco da Gama and will also serve as a warm-up for Bermuda for the Concacaf Gold Cup, which will be held from June 15 to July 7.
The Azorean Select team will be put together by the Ponta Delgada Football Association.
“The Government announced a holiday [November 4] in celebration of the first Portuguese immigrants coming to Bermuda and the plan for 2019 was to get the Portuguese community together to help organise a series of events to celebrate Portuguese culture,” said Paul Franco, president of Vasco, who returned to the BFA league this season after an absence of 18 years.
“Vasco were approached by Government and asked if we would help in organising a sporting event, a football game. We obviously love football and want to promote football and Portuguese culture, which is why the club exists.
“We want to thank the Government for announcing the holiday in November and for approaching Vasco to help with organising and preparing for the event. We then reached out to the BFA who were immediately supportive and enthusiastic about the opportunity.”
Franco added: “We reached out to some contacts that we have and are able to get a team from São Miguel, the largest of the nine islands in the Azores and they will be putting together a select team to travel to Bermuda to play on the May 24 weekend. They will be bringing as strong a team as possible.
“Lots of the players from São Miguel play professionally or semi-professionally in the lower professional leagues in Portugal. The season finishes in the middle of May, so it is perfect timing and it is great that it falls on Bermuda Day weekend.
“National pride will be high with the excitement of Bermuda qualifying for the Gold Cup. Even though we have our Portuguese roots, we live here; this is our island as well and we’re just as excited for Bermuda to be in the Gold Cup.
“We’re hoping Bermuda will have their best team possible and we’re looking forward to an exciting match and a great turnout at the National Stadium.”
Mark Wade, president of the BFA, admits the game is a timely boost for Bermuda’s preparations before their first Gold Cup.
The draw for the tournament will be held in Los Angeles today and BFA official Anthony Francis, along with head coach Kyle Lightbourne, will be in attendance.
“The coach is very excited about having a match of this calibre,” Wade said. “We had a team from the Azores last year when they played our under-20s and a Bermuda Select team. Both of those matches were very competitive.”
The exhibition match comes at the end of the English football season, so it is expected the English-based players will feature in the match.
“The season will just be finishing, so we will see how much rest the players need from the English season, although Danté Leverock [the team’s captain] and Willie Clemons will probably still be in season,” Wade added.
Lightbourne is happy to continue the momentum with another match soon after his team qualified for the Gold Cup with a 3-1 win over the Dominican Republic in the Nations League qualifiers last month.
“Our under-20s played against an Azores Select just over a year ago and it was an interesting game, so it definitely gives us something to look forward to.”
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