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Kyle Lightbourne suffers selection setback ahead of World Cup qualifiers

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Selection issues: overseas-based players may not be able to be included in Kyle Lightbourne’s Bermuda squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers because of regulations from the Bureau of the Fifa Council
Selection issues: overseas-based players such as Nahki Wells may not be able to be included in the Bermuda squad because of regulations from the Bureau of the Fifa Council
Dale Eve, the Bermuda goalkeeper

Bermuda’s hopes of calling on overseas-based players for the opening two fixtures of the upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifiers have been dealt a major blow.

Kyle Lightbourne’s side are scheduled to begin their campaign with a match away to group B favourites Canada on March 25 before hosting Aruba at the National Sports Centre on March 30. They will then face Surinam and Cayman Islands in their remaining group qualifying matches.

Lightbourne previously conceded he may be forced to name an entirely locally based squad for the qualifiers because of uncertainty surrounding Covid-19 restrictions, and his hand may be now forced owing to recent regulations from the Bureau of the Fifa Council.

As of the beginning of this month and ahead of the upcoming international window, the Bureau has decided to extend the amendments to the Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players governing the release of players for national team duty until the end of April.

As part of the amendment, the rules relating to release of players to association teams apply as normal except where there is a mandatory period of quarantine or self-isolation of at least five days upon arrival in either the location of the club or where a representative team match is scheduled to take place.

As things stand, Britain has a mandatory self-isolation period of ten days upon arrival, while Canada have imposed a 14-day quarantine period for anyone entering the country.

As a result of the Bureau’s regulations, clubs in Britain would not be required to release players, all but ending any hope of calling upon the likes of Nahki Wells, Dale Eve, Milan Butterfield, Jonté Smith, Justin Donawa and Reggie Lambe.

The opening fixture in Canada was thrown into doubt after the Canadian Government suspended airline service to Mexico and all Caribbean destinations until May to combat a more contagious variant of Covid-19.

That, as well as the updated Fifa regulations, has led to Concacaf president Victor Montagliani believing that the opening fixture will have to be staged at a neutral site.

"Listen, it's not going to be as easy as it was before, when you just got on a plane and you play or you play at home," said Montagliani, who doubles as a Fifa vice-president and is a former president of the Canadian Soccer Association.

"Obviously, no fans for probably the vast majority of these games, if not all of them. There'll be neutral venues for some of them. Canada, I would think, would be a neutral venue. Although it would be a home game, it would still be a neutral venue.

"It's World Cup qualifying, so it's the responsibility of each federation to sort their things out. It's not really a Concacaf event. However, having said that, we're helping and facilitating as much as possible to help our federations from a logistical standpoint to ensure that March goes off as smoothly as possible."

Montagliani also stated that Concacaf can use knowledge gained from the experiences of other confederations to help with the staging of games.

Meanwhile, Canada Soccer, which held a recent national team training camp in a bubble in Bradenton, Florida, said it "continues to work with the Public Health Agency of Canada and provincial medical authorities to establish the best venue and safest environment for upcoming Fifa World Cup qualifiers".

The Bermuda Football Association could not be reached for comment.

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Published February 17, 2021 at 8:01 am (Updated February 16, 2021 at 9:02 pm)

Kyle Lightbourne suffers selection setback ahead of World Cup qualifiers

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