In the next few weeks Belize, FIFA will determine which country national team will play in round three of the World Cup qualifying games having badly beaten the Dominican Republic and winning the Cayman Islands. But even before that is known, today the Jaguars got a huge boost. FIFA has moved up the national team significantly in its ranking; the highest it has ever been rated. For team members, it is reason for a huge motivation. Duane Moody was with the Jaguars today and got a sense of what the rankings mean for them.
Duane Moody, Reporting
The National “A” Selection Football Team, the Belize Jaguars, is leaping to the top of the FIFA World Rankings. That’s the latest news released by the International Federation of Football Association this morning for the North, Central America and Caribbean zone. Following two huge victories over the Dominican Republic, FIFA has moved up Belize by a whopping thirty-seven places, putting the team at a one hundred and eighteen rank in the world. It the biggest move in history for the sport worldwide, says Secretary General of the F.F.B., Michael Blease.
Michael Blease, Secretary General, F.F.B.
“Tremendous news for Belize. I am very proud. I believe a lot of Belizeans should have the same feeling, especially the players who have worked so hard. And the administration, we have made a lot of sacrifices and it has now paid off. It is such good news for us. I think it is the biggest jump that Belize has made and for many countries, it’s the biggest jump in FIFA…very significant jump, thirty-three plus points. No other country in Central America or the Caribbean or CONCACAF; it is a great part of the history that is unfolding in Belize.”
Ian Gaynair, Midfielder
“When we got the news this morning, it motivated all of us to want to push harder and to at least reach under a hundred. We feel good because Belize never reached that low in FIFA ranking. So it is an awesome feeling and it’s just motivational for us to continue push harder and reach the other round.”
The draw for the next round of the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers is scheduled to take place on July twenty-fifth, with the next games scheduled for late August/early September. Well the team has been in camp since last week and the athletes are in intense training to continue to make the country proud. This week, they are training at the facilities of the Police Academy in Belmopan.
“Training real hard and every week we have something new. This week we really doing mostly strength work, gym, physical, sprinting. Next week we are going to Placencia for the week to do beach. So every week we have something else for the whole month since this is pre-season week month.”
Danny Jimenez, Midfielder
“The training nice and intense and each player motivated to the training and I guess each player knows what it takes to advance to the next stage and each player wants to advance to the next stage. Hopefully we reach as far as we can go so we need to put in the work that we need. Some of us, like when I come, I over-push myself until I get tired.”
A younger player, twenty-one year old midfielder, Denmark Casey Junior, joined the national team from the under-twenty-three team. The training allows him to learn more about the sport, while assisting team Belize to advance.
Denmark Casey Jr.
Denmark Casey Jr., Center Midfielder
“It is intense because it is preseason, but I love it. In the longer run I will get in better shape and I thank that coach for working hard with us. It will only benefit us and the team so it is nice work and I will be in better shape. I think I can help the team more with ball position and talking to the players. There are a lot of senior players and I’m learning a lot from them and they are working with the youths and the coaching staff, they are working hard with us to better us and I thank them so much for that.”
And the athletes will have to be well-prepared, says Blease, because the jump in the ranks puts major pressure on Team Belize.
“Belize has been a target since 2012, since we made it to the Gold Cup. We have not been able to sign that on to the Champions League, but this year, we will pass through and we will play Champions League. As well, with the semi-pro league, we have made some drastic changes in how we will administrate the top league and these players that are here are proof of what we are doing. We have made a lot of changes in how we administrate and just to show you that the FIFA ranking now shows Belize at one-eighteen; the top league is all over CONCACAF and all over FIFA website. Our aim is playing against those teams that made it in the World Cup Qualifiers – Costa Rica, Mexico, U.S.A.—those are the teams we are aiming at. We will pass through this round, play the next round and definitely we will be there.”