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Best urges team to seize golden opportunity

Express yourself: Clyde Best almost won Bermuda the gold medal at the Pan American Games in 1967

Clyde Best believes Bermuda must adopt a fearless mentality at the Concacaf Gold Cup if they are to continue punching above their weight.

Best, who coached Bermuda from 1997 to 1999, is urging the island’s players to seize their “once in a lifetime” opportunity and have the confidence to express themselves on the big stage.

Although Bermuda are the lowest ranked nation in group B, the former West Ham United forward feels they can compete with all three of their opponents, Haiti, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, if they believe in themselves.

“This is huge for us, a country so small, and we’re punching above our weight,” said the 68-year-old.

“I just hope the players realise and understand the magnitude of what they’re entering into. This is big.

“We need to go in with the right frame of mind and with the intention winning. The most important thing is not to have fear just because you’re up against Costa Rica who have played in the World Cup.

“They’re just human like you; it’s 11 against 11. Let’s go out and make them respect us by working hard, getting in their faces and getting some results.”

As a key member of Bermuda’s silver medal-winning team at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1967, Best experienced his own memorable moment of national team success. It could, however, have been so much sweeter.

After finishing second in their group behind Canada with one win and two draws, Bermuda beat Trinidad & Tobago 3-1 in the semi-final to set up a meeting with Mexico in the final.

In the final minute and with the game scoreless, a 16-year-old Best almost won the island the gold medal with a late chance but his effort struck the post. Bermuda went on to lose the match 4-0 in extra time.

“We were 90 seconds away from winning the gold medal, but I hit the post” Best winces. “What we were able to do was unbelievable. I wouldn’t want to pit one Bermuda team against the other; it’s a different time. The pitches were a lot different in my era and you could kick people a lot harder!

“Both teams have achieved greatness. You can’t forget this group. It can’t get any bigger.

“We weren’t afraid of anybody and had fantastic players. We knew what our job was and had a good coach [Graham Adams] who allowed us to play.

“We worked hard as a unit. If this group can replicate that and everyone works for one another then of course we can get something from these games.”

With coaches and scouts sure to be perusing the talent on show at the Gold Cup, Best believes some of Bermuda’s players could put themselves in the shop window.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and this is their big stage,” added Best, who intends on attending Bermuda’s final group game against Nicaragua at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, on June 24.

“If any of them do well, who knows what can come of it. This could be a launching pad into something else. There are scouts everywhere nowadays. The sky is the limit for these guys.”

Stephen Wright travelled to San José, Costa Rica, courtesy of JetBlue, which provided flights between Bermuda, Boston, Orlando and San José. Flights available at www.jetblue.com