Tough group drives us, says captain Watson
Danni Watson said her Bermuda team-mates are up for the challenge of a tough group at the Concacaf Women's Under-17 Championship in Nicaragua in April.
Bermuda have been drawn in group B, along with the United States, Costa Rica and Canada, but Watson, the captain, believes her team's qualification against the odds in Haiti, as well as their previous experience in the under-15 championship in Orlando two years ago — where they lost 12-0 to the Americans in the quarter-finals, will hold them in good stead.
“It was definitely a shock,” Watson said of the draw. “But it is definitely a challenge we are willing to accept.
“I think that we can handle it. When we go out there to play those teams, it gives us more of a drive to train harder and play harder knowing that the opposition we are going to be playing against is of a high quality.
“We need to prepare ourselves for what they are going to bring so that we can bring enough [to] compete against them.”
Bermuda qualified for the tournament after topping group F of the Caribbean zone final round in Haiti last October, They drew 2-2 with Trinidad & Tobago before beating Jamaica 3-2. They went on to lose 4-1 in the final against the host nation, but the experience of playing against the Haiti crowd will help them too, Watson said.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Watson said of qualifying. “We came out there as underdogs, but we went out there and proved ourselves, with our hard work and our experience.
“Playing USA in the under-15 tournament last year gave us a lot of experience to see what level we needed to play to compete with the best teams in the Caribbean, where we are now the second best, and in Nicaragua, where we'll play some of these teams again.
“Playing Haiti was also good experience, because we scored a goal and then to make it hard for them. People think that four goals is a lot, but I think Haiti expected more, so for us to hold them, we did well.
“It was tough, when they had all the home support and all we had was each other to keep pushing each other on.”
Watson has been helping out at the Bermuda Football Association's Girls' Football League at the BFA Field on Saturdays by coaching and officiating and is keen to give back to the sport for girls who she says are “the future of Bermuda women's football”.
She said: “It's a great opportunity for younger girls to come out and get some experience playing football. I was helping out doing refereeing, linesmaning for the girls games and helping coaching for the development of these young girls.
“I see a lot of potential, especially with these under-13 girls. A lot of those girls are training to be part of the under-15 team [who will take part in their own Concacaf Championship this year]. I like to help them, to watch them grow and develop because not only are they going to be a part of that team, they are the future of Bermuda women's football.
“The rest of my team-mates come out to help and give back because they want to see the development of these girls.”
And Watson is getting used to being a role model to a lot of young Bermudian footballers — female and male.
“That is the best feeling in the world; knowing that somebody else a little girl, or even a little boy, sits down and says: ‘I want be just like Danni, I want to play like her',” she said. “It's not the reason why I want to give back to those players that look up to me, but it's why I want to develop [my own game] and do the best that I can do, so that I can show them that anything is possible, especially being on such a small island.
“Some of my team-mates play in boys' leagues and we have gained a lot of respect that girls can do a lot of things.
“Even in playing games against boys, a lot of us can muscle them off and show that we're strong; strong mentally, strong physically and a lot of the little boys are seeing that these Bermuda girls are doing such a good job.
“Even the girls who are playing here [in the Girls' Football League], some of them are playing in boys' leagues. It's an eye-opener for the boys to see that a lot of these girls can really play and it will be cool if we can help them develop and show them a few things as well.”