Vasco make a comeback
Vasco da Gama have returned to the Bermudian football landscape after a two-decade absence and will play in the First Division next season.
A domestic powerhouse during the 1980s and 1990s, Vasco were voted in as provisional members at the BFA's semi-annual Congress meeting at Devonshire Recreation Club last night.
They will play their home games at Bernard Park and will be coached by Brian Dickinson, who will be assisted by former Bermuda youth-team forward Dean Minors, Peter Philpott, Anthony Bailey and Joe Barbosa.
Among the players submitted by Vasco for next season are former Bermuda forward Rohann Simons and former Somerset Trojans players Zaki Iris and Cofield Robinson.
In Vasco's application, submitted by treasurer Edward Correia, the club vowed “not to solicit, poach or entice any player monetarily or otherwise from any affiliate club in order to form its team”.
Mark Wade, the BFA president, revealed that Vasco had initially applied to join the First Division last year, but their paperwork was not submitted in time for them to be considered for this season.
The same application, read out by David Sabir, the BFA general secretary, added: “In keeping with the spirit of the game, Vasco da Gama wishes to cultivate our harmonious relationship with all of the Bermudian Football Association affiliates and to assist in progressing the game of football together.
“Vasco da Gama understands that all of its players have to be pristine players and not current players of the Bermuda Football Association.”
Several club representatives in attendance at the Congress meeting voiced concerns about Vasco re-entering the BFA leagues.
Ray Jones, the Devonshire Colts president, expressed reservations about the addition of another team based on the island's small pool of players, as well as the potential movement of players to Vasco.
“We're all playing a lot of younger players because there just isn't a lot of players,” he said. “There's limited resources now on a Sunday.
“To think that someone can just come into my house and have the same rights as me from day one wouldn't happen anywhere else.
“I have no issues if they stuck to what they have put forward and they would be bringing more people into the game based on the bulk of that on that roster. But if that's just for presentation purposes ... that's going to be a problem.”
Wayne Campbell, of Dandy Town Hornets, said he had no qualms about Vasco rejoining the BFA and pointed out that amateur players were free to sign for whichever club they wished to.
“If somebody wants to leave my club and play for Flanagan's, PHC or Devonshire Colts, then what can you do?” Campbell said.
“We could have said that when Dandy Town first came out 30 years ago, or when Flanagan's and Robin Hood entered the league [in 2009].”
Arnold Manders, representing the Bermuda School Sports Federation, argued that it would be unethical to place any type of restrictions on Vasco's player recruitment.
“If you look at the Bermuda football scene now, players are jumping and going all over the place,” Manders said. “How are you going to put restrictions on a club coming in and say, ‘This player can't come and play for you'. That's a democratic right you're taking away from a club.”
Richard Todd, the Bermuda Football Coaches Association president, was also in favour of Vasco's return.
“It's important to recognise that Vasco have a history of being a prior full member of the BFA and have contributed richly, I believe, to the traditions that have been established through the years,” Todd said. “Every club goes through phases and they made a decision to go away from having a team, but they should be welcomed back at this point to resume full active membership within the association.”
Sabir told the meeting that he believed that Vasco, a club who celebrate the island's Portuguese heritage, would help grow the base of Bermudian football.
He also urged the affiliates not to be swayed by Vasco's reputation as a club that poached players in the past.
“That's the past and what we're doing going forward is encouraging [Vasco] not to revisit the assumption of enticing players to come and play for their club by other means,” Sabir said.
“They have written a declaration of how they intend to operate and should it be the decision of the Congress [to vote them in] they have two years to prove to you that they are operating in accordance with the association's rules and regulations.
“They have also expressed a desire to grow their programme from the base.”
Vasco, who disbanded at the end of the 1999-2000 season, were one of the most dominant teams in the 1980s and 1990s, winning the old First Division in 1985-86 and five FA Cup titles in 1980-81, 1981-82, 1993-94, 1994-95 and 1997-98.
They also claimed three Martonmere Cups in 1984-85, 1994-1995, 1995-1996, four Dudley Eve Trophies in 1980-81, 1983-84, 1995-96, 1997-98 and one Friendship Trophy in 1983-84.
Among their notable former players include Ralph Bean, his brother Mel Bean, Andrew Bascome and Dennis Brown.
Vasco has had a team playing in the Corona League for several years.