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Bermuda’s World Cup plans in disarray after Covid strikes in Florida

Bermuda’s World Cup qualifying campaign has been thrown into disarray after members of the squad who attended a training camp in the United States tested positive for Covid-19 upon their return on Monday.

A mandatory 14-day period of quarantine for each of the 28-strong travelling party means that it is highly unlikely that coach Kyle Lightbourne and his charges will be cleared to board a flight in advance of their March 25 group match against Canada, let alone take the field for the match itself.

Reliable sources have confirmed that the positive cases came as a result of tests done on passengers at LF Wade International Airport after the arrival of the Monday night flight from Miami.

The Bermuda Government said on Wednesday that, of the seven confirmed new cases from 652 test results, “four are classified as imported by residents who arrived on American Airlines AA308 from Miami”.

The Royal Gazette believes that at least one of those four is a member of the squad that won 3-0 and played to a goalless draw with Bahamas during their weeklong stay in Bradenton, Florida.

Lightbourne declined to comment when contacted yesterday, referring the matter to the Bermuda Football Association. Mark Wade, the BFA president, has yet to return a call seeking comment.

Efforts yesterday to reach Kim Wilson, the health minister, were also unsuccessful, but a spokeswoman later reiterated that “it is policy not to comment on individual cases” for reasons of confidentiality.

The Bermuda team featured several fringe players who were hoping to impress management sufficiently to be retained for the qualifying matches against Canada at the Exploria Stadium in Orlando on March 25 and then at home to Aruba five days later.

Among the frontline players left behind were forward Reggie Lambe and goalkeeper Dale Eve, who have only just completed their quarantine periods on returning from England on February 25, while the latest revelations have probably ruled out any chance of Nahki Wells being made available.

There has been no domestic football because of the pandemic since the first week of December 2020. The resumption of the season now hangs in the balance.

Ernest Peets, the sports minister, recently announced that certain protocols would have to be met before contact sport can resume.

“Contact sport brings a higher risk of Covid-19 transmission, therefore the Government requires adults wishing to participate in Stage 3 and Stage 4 sports to undertake a saliva Covid-19 test and repeat every 28 to 30 days,” Peets said recently.

“I want to emphasise that for health and safety reasons, if an athlete does not comply with the testing requirements, then participation in the competitive sports will not be possible.”

The BFA had hoped to resume league play ahead of the first World Cup qualifying match against Canada, as locally based players have not had any competitive matches since the season was stopped.

Now that looks unlikely with the rest of the domestic season now in question, with more than half of the season still to be completed. The season was originally scheduled to end on April 20 with the FA Cup final.

There had been talk recently about extending the season into May to reach completion, with an emphasis on league matches.

Canada, too, have faced their own challenges because of Covid, with a practice match in January at the IMG Centre in Bradenton cancelled the day before over “inconclusive” test results from four players/staff in the Canada camp.

The next month, it was confirmed that the Bermuda match would be switched to Florida because of Covid travel restrictions in Canada.

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Published March 13, 2021 at 8:18 am (Updated March 15, 2021 at 9:11 am)

Bermuda’s World Cup plans in disarray after Covid strikes in Florida

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