Team Bahamas fell short of its goal of qualifying for the first edition of the Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) World Beach Games, which is set for October 12-16, in Doha, Qatar, but collectively, the men’s and women’s squads might have turned in the country’s best ever performance in beach soccer.
The men finished with a 2-1 win/loss record at the qualifier which was held this past weekend in San Salvador, El Salvador; and the women might have finished winless in three games, but they were playing in The Bahamas’ first ever matches in beach soccer on the women’s side. Still, they had spirited performances against three giants in the sport.
The men finished one win short of advancing to the tournament’s semifinals, and the women were fourth overall. They were the only team from the Caribbean in the tournament. The ANOC World Beach Games Qualifier was a competition for national teams from the North American, Central American and Caribbean region. The top two finishers qualified for the World Beach Games on the men’s side, and just the top overall finisher on the women’s side qualified.
On the men’s side, The Bahamas nearly pulled off a shocker against Panama in their first game of the three-day tournament on Saturday. They fell 2-1 in penalties after the match was deadlocked at seven at the end of regulation and extra time. Panama is the 2017 CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football) Beach Soccer Champions from the tournament that was played here in Nassau, The Bahamas, and is ranked 11 spots higher than The Bahamas in the Beach Soccer Worldwide Overall Rankings.
Panama is at number 29 worldwide and at number four in the region while The Bahamas is ranked at number 40 worldwide and at number five in the region.
“This shows that we are growing,” said Head of Delegation for Team Bahamas and Overall Team Manager Jason McDowall. “Both teams were fantastic. In the opener for the men against Panama, we tried to hold them off, but we fell victim to an own goal and the game went to extra time. Panama is ranked a whole lot higher than us, but we still competed and competed well. No one could believe we played Panama that well and no one could believe how strong The Bahamas was. Overall, the tournament was fantastic and the guys are in great spirits. It was a fantastic performance by both squads. It is very exciting for the Bahamas Football Association (BFA) and for beach soccer to continue on this current growth. We are always looking for new players, but we have lots of plans for this year and going into next year. This is just the start of something new. The Bahamas Football Association is strong on beach soccer and we are going to do everything to continue to make it grow and to get beach soccer in The Bahamas highly ranked.”
In The Bahamas’ second game of the tournament against the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), they won easily, 8-1. They were up 2-0 after the first third, and 6-0 at the end of the second third. Team Bahamas defeated Trinidad & Tobago, 8-7, in its third match of the tournament. They led 2-1 after the first third, and 6-2 at the end of the second third. Trinidad & Tobago mounted a comeback, scoring four goals in a row in the final third, but The Bahamas held on for the win.
“The game against the USVI was fantastic – we played hard and we won,” said McDowall. “Also, with the men’s team, all of the players scored at least one goal and that was huge for us. We can only go up from here.”
Regardless of the results, it would be a history-making moment on the women’s side, as this is the first time that a Bahamian national beach soccer squad was assembled in that gender. They fell 6-3 to host nation El Salvador in front of about 5,000 fans in their first game of the mini tournament, lost to Mexico 7-2 in their second game of the tournament, and then dropped a 7-1 decision to the United States in their third and final game. Against El Salvador, the match was tied 2-2 at the end of the first third, Team Bahamas fell behind, 5-2, at the end of the second third, and El Salvador went on to win, 6-3. Against Mexico, the match was tied 2-2 at the end of the first third, Team Bahamas once again fell behind 5-2 at the end of the second third, and Mexico went on to win, 7-2. Team Bahamas was down 7-0 to the United States before Team Captain Karen Wert broke through and scored a goal for the country.
“This is the first women’s team that we have put together and this was their first ever tournament, so we’re very satisfied with what they were able to give us,” said McDowall. “We didn’t have much time to train but the opening game against El Salvador was absolutely fantastic. The second game was also a good performance by them. Against the U.S., they were just overpowered. A lot of the U.S. players play in Europe and in leagues so we knew that we would have a little bit of trouble but our captain managed to score a goal at the end which was fantastic for the women. Both teams exceeded expectations and it is our intention for both programs to continue to grow. I just want to thank our president Anton Sealey (BFA President) and the BFA for allowing us to participate. Also, thanks to the players, the Head Coach Luis Escobar, the assistant Wilson DaCosta and the physiotherapist Eugena Patton for a job well done.”
The teams arrive home this afternoon, and according to McDowall, will take about a week off before getting right back to training. The men will play in an invitational tournament in China in early September.