Best hails professional impact on national side
Bermuda football legend Clyde Best says he is encouraged by the amount of players with professional experience now representing the national team, a growing trend he believes owes much to the island’s recent success on the international stage.
The bulk of Kyle Lightbourne’s squad play professionally in Europe and the United States, with captain Danté Leverock, Nahki Wells, Reggie Lambe, Willie Clemons, Roger Lee, Zeiko Lewis, Kacy Milan Butterfield, Jahquil Hill, Osagi Bascome and Jonté Smith among the professionals.
“We’ve never had this many professionals or even semi-professionals before playing for the national team,” the former West Ham striker said. “We’ve had maybe one or two but this team practically everybody that starts has had some association with professionalism which for me is a great stepping stone for a lot of the younger players coming up today.
“So many of those guys are playing in Europe and different parts of Europe that it makes that much difference and the game that much easier. It makes it easier because they are the ones that have been in the system and understand the work ethic and what you have to do to take it to the next level.”
Bermuda are riding high on the crest a wave after qualifying for the Concacaf Gold Cup for the first time.
“I would just like to congratulate the guys for what they have already achieved,” said Best, one of the first black players in the English game. “I’m just over the moon and I’m sure everybody else is because everywhere I go I hear people talking about it.
“It’s a big achievement and I just hope it can continue and go from strength to strength.
“I just hope they are able to continue doing it and doing it to the best of their ability and making the country proud. When we are winning as a country in sport everybody is happy and that’s important.”
Bermuda won three and lost one of their Nation League qualifiers to finish fifth in the standings and secure a berth in League A of the competition in addition to qualifying for the Gold Cup.
The Gold Cup, to be held in the United States and Caribbean from June 15 to July 7, is a biennial competition for teams in North America, Central America and the Caribbean.
Bermuda will begin their maiden campaign against Haiti at the Estadio Nacional in San José, Costa Rica, on June 16 before taking on Costa Rica at the Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on June 20. Their final group match will be against Nicaragua at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on June 24.
The top two teams will advance to the quarter-finals of the competition.
After the Gold Cup, Bermuda have home and away fixtures against group B rivals Mexico and Panama to look forward in the Nations League.
“Even though we have to play Mexico and Panama, if you go with the right attitude then anything is possible,” Best said.
The group phase matches will be played during three Fifa international windows of September 6 to 11, October 7 to 15 and November 11-19. League A is split into four pools of three with the winner of each group advancing to the semi-finals. The bottom team in each pool will be relegated to League B.