Lightbourne backs move to delay qualifiers
Coach Kyle Lightbourne accepts that delaying the Concacaf World Cup qualifying matches until next March is a good decision in light of the many travel restrictions because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Bermuda learnt this week that the national team will have to wait six months to start their qualifying campaign against Canada, Aruba, Suriname and Cayman Islands, matches that were due to start next month with the opening encounter in Canada.
However, Fifa and Concacaf have decided that international matches scheduled for the original dates in October and November were too early considering the pandemic.
“I think it is probably the best for everybody because there is so much going on as far as travel,” Lightbourne said.
“Clubs now don't have to release their players with this Covid-19 situation because of different rules for different areas that people have to go through.
“For instance if Nahki Wells was to come back to the island for a game in Bermuda it would have been okay for him. But if he had to travel through the United States or Canada it becomes an issue because then he would have to quarantine upon arriving back in the United Kingdom.
“That's possibly the same for all our players. Bermuda has brought in a rule that once you go overseas and come back you need to quarantine for eight days. That becomes a big issue as far as international football is concerned.
“In this sense they've done the right thing, but let's see what happens in the new year.”
About half of Lightbourne's senior squad is based overseas, with the English league season kicking off this weekend.
“November would have been more ideal, we know our players would have been into their seasons and the fitness would have been where they should be,” the coach said. “Zeko Lewis would have been coming to the end of his season so you would expect him to be in tip top shape, while Willie Clemons would have been coming towards the end of his season.
“The September window is always a difficult window for us because for the local players the season is just kicking off.
“Next March we could be in this same situation but I hope things do change between now and then. Next year is going to be a lot of international football that we will be trying to cram in.”
Bermuda were scheduled to play Canada away in their first match in October before hosting Aruba five days later. The following month Bermuda were to play Suriname away before hosting Cayman Islands four days later.
The local football season has just started with Lightbourne watching the Charity Cup and Dudley Eve matches as he assesses local players who he feels can bring something to the national set-up.
Bermuda captain Dante Leverock will be one of those players who will be playing his season here in Bermuda after leaving his Polish club in February.
“With Dante, who is a strong leader, it's just a matter of him being able to reach those fitness levels he was at as a professional,” Lightbourne said
Midfielder Reggie Lambe is trying to find a new club in England after being released by League Two club Cambridge United.
“I spoke to Reggie a month ago and he's been trying to find a club,” said Lightbourne, himself a former professional player in England. “It's a difficult time for players right now, with so many quality players out of contracts. Hopefully Reggie can get himself sorted and can continue playing professional football.
“It's difficult because I want to get back to coaching the team, but it's hard when it looks like your next meaningful match is going to be in March. “I don't like to have 40 guys training, I want to work with 23 to 25 players.”