In the wake of the destruction caused by the passing of Hurricane Dorian, it is expected to be an emotional game when The Bahamas Senior Men’s National Soccer Team takes on Bonaire in Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) Nations League Group B action at the Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium tonight at 6 p.m. Gates open at 4:30 p.m. and entry is free of charge.
The Bahamas Football Association (BFA) has selected a 19-member team for this game – their first match of the CONCACAF Nations League.
Representing Team Bahamas will be Marcel Joseph (captain), Cameron Hepple, Isaiah Collie, Terry Delancy, Jonathan Miller, Logan Russell, Duane Beneby, Dwayne Whylly, Dylan Lightbourne, Nathan Wells, Jordan Farquharson, Rejon Ene, Troy Pinder, Raymon Sturrup, Antonio Hanna, Valin Bodie, Ian Lowe, Alex Thompson and Happy Hall.
The head coach of the team will be veteran player Nesley Jean. Hall will double as the assistant coach, and Larry “Dollar” Minns will be the team’s manager.
This is Joseph’s third time as captain on the senior team, and has played for the under-17 national team as well. The 22-year-old will be charged with leading the team during this time.
“It is going to be a tough game, but it is a big one for us. It will require us to give it our all. We are here to push each other,” he said. “Being named the captain does not make me the only leader of the team. We have 10 other leaders on the field. Everyone on the pitch is a leader. We just have to communicate as we play. It is an honor but we are all leaders.
“It is obviously a big game for us with what happened in Grand Bahama and Abaco. I think this is going to be something big to bring the country back together – something to inspire them and show that they have people out there fighting for them. It is a big opportunity for me and my teammates to grab a good result from this game,” Joseph continued.
Whylly, a veteran, is one of the goalkeepers on the team, and is no stranger to the national team. He said he believes they will have a good showing.
“I think it’s a chance to offer a distraction – a positive atmosphere for people for just a couple hours to get away from it all where they don’t have to think about the horrors that happened the past week,” Whylly said. “Obviously, a lot of people are still dealing with that and to a certain extent it may seem trivial, a football game, but it is an opportunity for The Bahamas to come together to get everybody to get behind one cause. If we are victorious that can be a really good mood booster for some people.”
The team features a mixture of young and veteran players. One of those experienced players other than Whylly is Hepple. He will be returning to the international football scene having missed the last four years.
“With me, Happy and Whylly, and Nesley, we have been around so it is more of a mental game at this point. This will be the first game for some players and second and third for some players, and they will still have butterflies. For us, it is sort of we know what we need to do to get our heads right before a game starts. We are going to make sure that we communicate and make sure the younger guys on and off the pitch are focused on what they need to do to get the win,” Hepple said.
Joseph played for Florida Elite this past summer in the Southern Conference Southeast Division in the United Soccer League Two (USL2), a pre-professional league in the United States. He said it is a huge honor to play for The Bahamas.
“It is always good to represent your country. It was a dream of mine from when I was younger. I always wanted to play at another level and the country gives me the opportunity to play at that level. I am thankful for CONCACAF for bringing in the Nations League and giving us more games. It is a huge honor to play for The Bahamas,” Joseph said.
Hepple said: “I am always hoping for a win. It is always good to play for the national team. It is a pleasure coming back after a four-year stint, it is good to see younger players playing and we have a lot of hope with this group. Now is the time to show it and with this group we are really looking forward to making big strides in Bahamian football.”
Whylly, who played in the local BFA league this past season for the Dynamos Football Club, said playing for your country is one of the greatest feelings an athlete can have.
“I feel old. I always tell people, that the best feeling in the world is walking out to the FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) anthem and then standing with your hand on your chest and listening to the national anthem. Other than childbirth there is no better feeling than that for an athlete. It is one of the greatest feelings in the world so to get that opportunity to come back out and experience that is a treat,” Whylly said.
Bonaire is coming off a 4-2 win over the British Virgin Islands (BVI) last Friday in Curacao. The Bahamas will look to avoid them from taking sole possession of the lead in the group. This will be the first meeting between the two nations.
Whylly said they were able to see some of Bonaire’s footage from their Nations League match against the BVI. They hope to use some of that footage to determine a game plan for the match tonight.
Bonaire began the process to gain FIFA membership in March 2018.
The CONCACAF Nations League began with a one-off qualifying phase in 2018. Following 68 matches, the 34 participating teams where compiled into an aggregate table, ranking them 1 through 34. The final standings of each team determined if they were placed into League A, B or C. The six teams that participated in the hexagonal round of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Russia 2018 were pre-seeded directly into League A.
The CONCACAF Nations League is a new centralized men’s national team competition representing a new era of national team football for CONCACAF member associations. Through this new centralized competition, all 41 CONCACAF member associations will keep the dream alive, by participating in competitive international football year-round.
A little over a week ago, The Bahamas’ two most northern islands – Abaco and Grand Bahama – were forever changed by the destruction that Hurricane Dorian left behind. Team Bahamas is looking to bring some positivity, with a win, to the nation as families still try to come to grips with what took place.