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Bermuda fans get Gold Cup fever

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Jump in class: Bermuda continue their Concacaf Gold Cup journey tomorrow night against Haiti in the Costa Rican capital of San José

Hundreds of elated Bermuda fans will cheer their team from the stands for the island’s historic first appearance in the Concacaf Gold Cup.

Sports lovers told The Royal Gazette they will bring pink and blue to Bermuda’s biggest matches in decades and watch history unfold.

Bermuda kick off their campaign tomorrow against Haiti in San José, Costa Rica, at 7pm Bermuda time. They will also play group matches against Costa Rica in Frisco, Texas, on Thursday, and Nicaragua in Harrison, New Jersey, on June 24.

The advice from David Sabir, the Bermuda Football Association general secretary, was: “Make it a Bermuda day.”

The biggest Bermuda contingent is expected for the final group match against Nicaragua at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey.

Among them will be veteran coach Paul Scope, who hopes to witness “the one that decides whether we go through to next round — even if we don’t manage before that, that’s the one that’s winnable”.

Mr Scope said: “The Gold Cup is huge. I’ve been in Bermuda for 35 years; I’ve been in football all that time.

“I came in 1983 and heard about the team [in 1967] that went to the Pan American Games. We had some talented players — that was the last golden era.”

Bermuda could only advance so far towards the World Cup, Mr Scope said: aiming for the Gold Cup was “more realistic”.

He added: “Here we are, all these years later, deservedly qualifying. We’re a much more resilient team now.”

Mr Scope said he saw that same mettle in Bermuda’s historic qualifying win in March against the Dominican Republic.

A win against Haiti would be “unbelievable”, he said.

But even coming home from three narrow defeats would do Bermuda proud.

“A lot of friends are making a holiday of that and Dallas, and I hear there’s a lot of people going to New Jersey, as well as people that used to live in Bermuda. There’s a real buzz, for sure.”

Mr Scope said draping himself in the flag was not his style.

“I’m a coach at heart,” he said. “I’ll be analysing the game.”

With a capacity of 25,000, the Red Bull Stadium, purpose-built for football, promises a “great atmosphere” for the crowd, Mr Scope added.

Nick Ingham and other Robin Hood footballers are banding into a posse of ten for their trip to Dallas for the Costa Rica match, which begins at 10.30pm Bermuda time.

He said: “I’ve never got the opportunity to see my country play in the big stadium. For us, it’s a boys’ trip to support Bermuda and have fun.”

Mr Ingham, who plans to buy a pink Bermuda replica jersey as well as shirts advertising Barritt’s Ginger Beer, said his contingent will bring “cheers, chants and singing” to the stands in Texas.

“It’s a real mission to go — two flights, then add in the hotel, so you want to make the most of it,” he said. “I know the coach [Kyle Lightbourne, the former Robin Hood coach] and a couple of players on the team. They’ll know we’re in the stands. We’ll give them the support and see a smile when they hear their names.”

Teddy Terceira, general manager of the Rubis Warwick Gas Station, said: “As soon as they qualified, me and some buddies put a group together.

“We’re travelling to Dallas and then to New Jersey to watch Bermuda play.

“It’s a big deal; it’s the first time we’ve qualified in my lifetime for a proper tournament. Without a doubt, we’ll have flags, shirts, hats, air horns. They will hear us; we will get a good voice in the stadiums.”

Mr Terceira added that he hoped to see “at least 500 Bermudians, if not 1,000, in New Jersey”.

Stephen Simons, president of the Robin Hood Football Club, said of the national team: “They know they’ve made a bit of history. There’s that excitement. I think we can catch a few of these teams and upset the applecart.”

Mr Simons’s group of 15 is headed to Costa Rica and then Texas to “cheer for our boys”.

He added: “I’ve played internationally, so I know how it feels to have friendly faces in the crowd.

“We’re taking the flag, for sure, and we’re bringing quite a few things to make noise. Anything to be loud.”

Mr Sabir said this week that the BFA had sold “well over 100” tickets to the New Jersey match, with 30 for Costa Rica and 20 for Texas.

Seats remain available: fans can call the BFA at 295-2199, e-mail bfa@bermudafootball.com, or visit the Clyde Best Centre of Excellence at Prospect in Devonshire. Pubs showing the game include Docksider, Outback Sports Bar, Robin Hood and the Spinning Wheel

Television: Fox Sports 2, Univision (Cable Ch 132) Kick-off: 7pm

Loyal support: Bermuda fans will make their presence known over the next fortnight in Costa Rica, Texas and New Jersey in the Concacaf Gold Cup group stage (File photograph)