Chairman Blankendal upbeat about new season
If the Dudley Eve group matches are anything to go by, the upcoming football season should be an exciting one for the fans, says BFA first vice-president and Competitions Committee chairman Cal Blankendal.
The popular early season tournament produced a total of 28 goals in the three double-headers as North Village, Dandy Town, PHC and Devonshire Cougars advanced to the semi-finals on October 13 at Somerset where Town will meet PHC in the 2.00 opener and Village will take on Cougars in the 4.00 match.
Blakendal is hoping for further excitement when the league campaign kicks off this weekend with a full slate of Premier and First Division matches.
“I'm hoping it's a very competitive season, that each team is trying their best on each day and has a full complement of players and that the spectators are fully excited and engaged at each particular match,” said Blakendal.
“In the Premier Division I think it will be a tight race this season with North Village having strength in numbers, you have the traditional powerhouses of Dandy Town and PHC and of course Devonshire Cougars who are the Triple Crown champions who I'm sure don't want to relinquish any titles. I think this one is going to be even tighter than last season when it looked like it was going to get a little close at the end. I think this one from the start is going to be pretty tight.”
Cougars coach Dennis Brown has already warned his players that the club faces a tough task trying to defend their titles.
“As the Triple Crown champions, you come back the next season and are definitely the team to beat, not having lost many players and having picked one or two up, including a goalkeeper, so we should be looking to repeat. But we know how difficult it is to retain all the trophies, but with the same team and coach in place Cougars are the team to go after.”
Blakendal feels a couple of early upsets similar to what was seen in the English Premier League could help set the tone for the season. “Every match, especially the first four or five games, could be pretty tight and then a balance comes along,” said Blakendal.
“With Paul Scope doing his good work (getting players hooked up with non-league club Ilkeston), there are a lot of opportunities for the younger guys with college, semi pro and pro, to play at a higher level.
“In the past few years some of the senior players are slowly getting out of the game earlier so clubs are turning to the 17, 18 year olds to fill the void and those players are hungry to prove to themselves that they can compete with the older guys. That's a trend that has been going on for the last 10 years, with the senior players going out of the game younger. There are not many stalwarts sticking around.”
The BFA, as revealed by Blakendal to The Royal Gazette recently, is taking steps to prevent players with known gang affiliation from playing for safety reasons.
“What we have is a ‘stop light' system where it is red for anyone who they identify as being involved in serious antisocial behaviour, yellow means caution and green is for a person for which there are no concerns,” explained Blakendal.
“All the clubs have done that and some are in the process of doing it. The player will have to complete that document and have it sent to the office by their club to indicate that they are in agreement for that (background check) to take place. The other step is for the office to send it to the Bermuda Police Service, but it won't be for any offences, just the stop light system.
“This is just to make sure that when the players are on the field that they are not attracting anyone to the game who going to bring the game into disrepute. This concept was brought forward to us by the clubs at the semi-annual general meeting, so this is a partnership with the clubs for the safety and security of everyone.”
Added Blakendal: “Between the spectators there is a lot of camaraderie and friendships among the fans, you stand next to each other, make a few comments, laugh about it and shake hands and say ‘I'll get you next time'. Bermuda is very unique where opposing fans stand right next to each other and there are no issues.
“On behalf of the BFA executives I wish all the clubs a great season.”