Gombey Warriors welcomed as heroes
Bermuda's national football squad returned home to a heroes' welcome yesterday.
The team left the Concacaf Gold Cup with their heads held high after a convincing 2-0 victory over Nicaragua on Monday.
Shakia Chamberlain, the mother of midfielder Lejuan Simmons, watched the team's win at her home with her mother and daughter.
She was overcome with emotion when her son scored the match's opening goal in the 60th minute.
Ms Chamberlain, 41, said: “I was screaming, I was yelling. I was so excited. I couldn't even cry because I was just so overwhelmed.”
She said that Lejuan's father, Perry Puckerin Jr, who died several years ago, was “smiling down” on his son.
Ms Chamberlain, from Pembroke, added: “He was always there at his games coaching him and telling him what to do.
“He would have been very proud of his son.”
She asked Lejuan how he felt about his performance.
Ms Chamberlain said: “He said, ‘Mama it just feels good. I feel like a celebrity now'.”
She said the entire team had done the country proud.
Ms Chamberlain added: “I'm very pleased with all of them.”
She said yesterday's announcement by Lovitto Foggo, the sports minister, that a motorcade would be organised for the team was a “fitting tribute” and “well deserved”.
Paul Scope, cofounder of the Bermuda Hogges football team, which played in a US league, was in the stadium at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey for the Nicaragua game alongside a strong Bermuda contingent of fans that made their presence known.
Hundreds of supporters showed up to watch the island's best chance of a win — and were not disappointed.
Mr Scope, also a former Bermuda assistant coach said: “The Bermuda fans certainly made a lot of noise and showed a lot of enthusiasm. Everybody enjoyed themselves.
“The Premier was there, the tourism minister; there were players' family members, people who had never been involved with football and some people who had gone to all three matches.”
Mr Scope said “a big crowd greeted the players” when they touched down at the airport yesterday.
He said: “Spirits were really high — there was a lot of goodwill. They are calling it ‘the golden generation'.”
He added: “Although we're now out of the Gold Cup, we qualified for League A of the Concacaf Nations League. That's like being in the Premier Division.
“We are playing two quality teams in the region — Mexico and Panama — home and away. That means great games at the National Stadium, where I can see the crowd being the biggest ever.”
He predicted another strong travelling support for the overseas rounds, particularly for the Panama fixture.
A huge crowd packed the Outback Sports Bar at Flanagan's on Front Street, where bar manager Gregory Dean was also glued to the screen.
Mr Dean said: “Once they scored, the place just erupted. Once we got the second goal, people felt comfortable. They knew the game was in control.
“People were really feeling that sense of pride. We actually did something on the larger stage.”
Mr Dean added: “Another thing that got a lot of people excited was how the US commentators seemed almost to have Bermuda as a favourite. They enjoyed the way they played.
“That's one thing about Americans that people don't understand. They like an underdog. And you could see some of the fans out there, too.”
Ms Foggo, who also travelled to New Jersey, said she was “absolutely blown away” by the team's performance.