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Jonté Smith hands Kyle Lightbourne boost ahead of World Cup qualifiers

Welcome return: Striker Jonte Smith has made himself available for Bermuda’s upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Cayman Islands and Suriname next month (Photograph by Blaire Simmmons)

Jonté Smith has made himself available for selection for Bermuda’s national team ahead of next month’s World Cup qualifying matches against Cayman Islands and Surinam.

The 26-year-old striker, who plays for Woking of the Vanarama National League in England, missed the first two Concacaf Zone group B matches against Canada and Aruba in March.

However, Smith confirmed yesterday that he has committed to the island’s remaining qualifying group matches.

“I’m happy at the possibility of being back with my team-mates,” he told The Royal Gazette.

“I know that we’re all looking forward to doing our best to get six points in the next two games.

“We want to do everything we can to put ourselves in the best position possible.

“We know that it won’t be easy with it being hard to prepare how we normally would for international games, with question marks around some player’s availability and the issues that Covid causes to travel and preparation.

“All we can do is do our best with the things that we can control and adapt to the things that we can’t.”

Kyle Lightbourne, the national coach, is happy to have the player’s services at his disposal once again.

“Jonté is one of our leading strikers on the island, so it’s always good to have your top players available,” the former Walsall striker said.

“He wasn’t available for the last occasion so it’s good to have him available.

“Especially with the way the pandemic and things are right now.

“It’s not always possible people are going to be available due to certain travel restrictions and where they are just generally in their life.”

Lightbourne’s team are third in group B behind Canada and Surinam, who both have six points after two matches.

Bermuda suffered a 5-1 defeat against Canada before bouncing back with a 5-0 win over Aruba in their opening qualifying matches in Florida in March.

The national team will play Surinam and the Cayman Islands on June 4 and 8 respectively.

While the fixture against the Cayman Islands has been moved to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, it is still to be determined if the Surinam match will be rescheduled from the Dutch-Caribbean island.

Only the top team in the group will advance to the next round of the competition.

Meanwhile, the national team has resumed training with their preparations receiving a welcomed boost after the Bermuda Tourism Authority joined with SailGP and Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club to provide a sports bubble environment for them to prepare for their upcoming World Cup qualifying fixtures.

Ahead of facing Surinam and Cayman Islands next month, the 20-member squad, as well as team officials, will spend a week at the Hamilton Princess while Government’s mixing-of-households regulations are still in place.

Organisers of the recent Bermuda Sail Grand Prix presented by Hamilton Princess provided a successfully executed bubble environment for 64 elite athletes as well as separate bubbles for support team members.

Bubble environments, which require daily health reports and regular testing, are designed to reduce the risk of Covid transmission.

The SailGP bubble was adapted for Bermuda in consultation with the Ministry of Health, Ministry of National Security, Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sport, and the BTA.

“I am very pleased with the way things have worked out,” Lightbourne said. “We thank the Green Family [Hamilton Princess Hotel & Beach Club owners], we thank SailGP, we thank the Bermuda Tourism Authority and the Government for the work that they have done to allow us to get back training.”

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Published May 09, 2021 at 9:24 am (Updated May 09, 2021 at 9:24 am)

Jonté Smith hands Kyle Lightbourne boost ahead of World Cup qualifiers

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