Well, it’s official. Belize will NOT be represented in the next edition of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament, beginning July 31, in which the champion clubs of all countries in CONCACAF (North, Central America and the Caribbean) get to participate. The newly- crowned Belizean football champions Placencia Assassins will follow 3-peat national champions Belize Defence Force, and before them Culture Yabra, as Belizean champion clubs who were denied participation in the prestigious regional club tournament.
According to the new format comprising 24 clubs in the Round 1 group phase, some higher- ranked countries get more than one berth in the tournament. The plan called for 9 clubs from North America (USA – 4; Mexico -4; and Canada – 1), 3 from the Caribbean (the top 3 clubs from the CFU Club Champions Cup), and 12 from Central America (Costa Rica -2; El Salvador – 2; Guatemala – 2; Honduras – 2; Panama – 2; Nicaragua – 1; and Belize – 1).
In our story, “Teenage sensation ‘Bredda’ will not see UNCAF U-20 this year..,” in our issue for Sunday, May 6, we had noted that, “…even now, the new FFB administration is waffling about our participation in the qualifiers for the 2012-2013 Champions League, set to commence its preliminary group stage on July 31 of this year. The stadium lighting improvements needed to meet FIFA’s standards will reportedly cost in the neighborhood of Bze $75,000.00, and they are still trying to locate sponsors.”
There has yet been no release on the matter from the Football Federation of Belize, but CONCACAF’s web site reports that Salvador will now get an “extra berth reallocated from Belize”; which means Salvador will now have 3 clubs participating in the upcoming Champions League tournament. And today Wikipedia notes that: “Because Belize does not have a stadium which meets CONCACAF’S minimum standards for the Champions League, the spot normally reserved for Belize’s club champion was reallocated to El Salvador, since it was the only Central American nation to send a team to the 2011–12 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.” Belize will have none. NADA! We will look on again, as we have been doing for the past so many years.
This is indeed a big disappointment for Belizean footballers. No UNCAF U-17 or U-20; and now no CONCACAF Champions League? What are we in Belize? The “bottom of the pot”? What are our young footballers to aspire to?
Today, FFB new General Secretary Michael Blease told us by phone that past FFB President, Dr. Bertie Chimilio had misled football clubs and officials into thinking that a FIFA visit was pending to evaluate and hopefully give a passing grade to the FFB Stadium so that our champion club could participate in the Champions League tournament this year. In fact, Blease said, his Executive was recently told by FIFA that they had inspected the FFB Stadium from way back in February, before the March 15 FFB elections, and had failed the stadium. Chimilio knew this, but had told everyone that FIFA would be coming soon to see the improvements and hopefully give its blessing to the FFB Stadium.
According to Blease, the matter was out of the hands of the new Executive, as they are only now locating some of the correspondence which reveal what the past Executive was doing. They had inherited an FFB office with no computers or any documentation or records to work with. They had thought that FIFA was coming back to do an inspection, when in fact the dye was already cast from February. Belize had lost its berth in the Champions League.
We got confirmation of the above tonight from the FFB President himself, Ruperto Vicente, who said that he was in Panama negotiating with UNCAF President Rafael Tinoco on May 3, when the email came in announcing the allocation of Belize’s berth to Salvador because of the stadium failure. “Unknown to us, it was already a done deal,” said Vicente. Amandala