Bermuda’s young stars fly out to chase World Cup history
Bermuda’s Under-17 football squad are adamant they can achieve what none of the island’s other national teams have done before and qualify for a World Cup.
The 20-man squad fly out to Miami on Monday in advance of the Concacaf Championships in Guatemala, which starts on Saturday, where just two victories will guarantee them a place in the 2023 Fifa Under-17 World Cup in Peru in November.
At a training session at the Clyde Best Centre of Execllence on Saturday, the squad were already dreaming of cementing their place in history.
“To reach the World Cup would mean the world to me and all of the squad,” said captain Malachi Henry.“To make history as the first team from Bermuda to qualify would really put us on the map.
“There is a lot of pressure on us but the team that we have are capable of reaching the World Cup; It’s just two games, that’s it. We have a strong squad and are like a family, so we’re feeling good and excited to go to Guatemala and try to qualify for the World Cup.”
Henry, who is at school in England, is relishing his role as captain and feels his overseas experience could prove pivotal in a leadership role.
“I was really excited to be told that I was the captain and to be able lead the team,” he added. “I like to always try to take a leadership role and feel confident about that.
“I always look to try to bring that experience of playing overseas back with me. The tempo, and intensity in England is higher and so I feel I can bring that experience with me and help the rest of the squad.”
While he may be in the minority as one of only two players who are based on island, Luke Fulton also brings a valuable level of experience to the squad after featuring heavily this season in the Bermuda Premier Division.
Despite being part of a struggling Robin Hood squad, Fulton has shone at the heart of defence, putting in a number of impressive performances belying his years.
“I’ve had a great experience playing in the senior men’s league in Bermuda with Robin Hood and I think that challenge has really prepared me well,” said Fulton, who is confident no one in the squad is getting too far ahead of themselves in their quest to make history.
“It’s crazy to think that just two games is all it takes to reach the World Cup. It would just be amazing to come back to Bermuda knowing we had done it. It’s obviously hard not to get ahead of ourselves but the squad is making sure that we are in the right mindset and none of us are getting carried away just yet.”
One player who is perhaps more desperate than anyone else to get on to the field is Jaidyn Robinson, who is relishing the chance to make an impact after spending a month out with injury.
“I’m just really excited to get out there,” he said. “I’m just coming back from injury so I’m raring to go. I’ve been out for about a month but now I’m back to fitness and 100 per cent ready to prove myself.
“It would mean a lot to me to be in the first Bermuda squad to reach a World Cup. I would remember that sort of moment for the rest of my life.”
As well as the possibility of personal and collective glory among the squad, Jutore Burgess reflected on the greater significance of qualification and opportunity to inspire.
“It’s very exciting because we could be the foundation for the generations coming after us to push harder and keep achieving,” he said.
“We all want to put Bermuda on the map because people underestimate us as a small country. I think we are capable of showing them what we are capable of doing. It’s also a chance to represent not only Bermuda, but our families as well, hopefully we can make them all proud.”
With the qualifiers looming, the training camp in Florida will include a warm-up match and will give head coach Cecoy Robinson one final opportunity to cast his eye over the squad with competition fierce for a place in the starting line-up.
“The main thing for me now is to make sure we have everybody together and fine- tune the last small details that need to be put in place,” said Robinson.
“Everybody is fighting for a place in the team and that intensity and competitive edge is already coming out, which I appreciate as a coach. When we spoke as a squad back in August, I told them the level of intensity that I wanted in each session and we are definitely seeing that now.
“The camaraderie is also really strong and you can see that there is a really good spirit among the squad. I try to help take that pressure off of the players because I would rather it all be on me.
“I want them to go out and enjoy the moment as much as possible because this is what you play football for, these type of moments.”
Like the rest of his young squad, Robinson is not hiding his World Cup dream but is keen to remain focused.
“I’m really excited to see what they are about to do as a squad because I know they are ready; it’s time for them to shine and showcase their talent,” he added.
“This is history in the making and while it’s hard not to get carried away with the end goal, that is the ambition and everyone is focused about that. We have always been honest and open about our objective to reach the World Cup so the players are able to focus and really laser in on that goal.
“The plan was set out in August and now it is up to these lads to go out there, win two games and achieve their dream.”
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