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Belize's Under 15 national Football team is bringing home GOLD. The team left for the Dominican Republic last week Wednesday. The team played their first official game on Friday against Dominican Republic where Randy Serrano scored four goals for Belize making it their first win. The team had two games slated for Saturday. They first went up against Santo Domingo and came out on top with a score of two to one. Their second game was against Mexico where they once again scored a game of two to one. Their final match was against the Dominican Republic National "A" Selection where Randy Serrano scored the first goal for Belize followed by Marlon Garcia making it a two to one game and champion of the International Football Tournament. This is a Historic win for Belize since it is the first time Belize has won gold in an International football tournament. The Belmopan Selection will return to Belize tomorrow morning (Nov 27). A Press conference follows immediately upon their arrival at the VIP lounge of the PGIA in order to recognize the tremendous achievement accomplished by the U-15 Selection.


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Belize Makes A Mark In U-15 Football

Whenever a selection of Belizean athletes enters a sporting event - we're always the underdogs, due to population and a lack of training and facilities.

But, in sports, the biggest intangible is heart, you can't buy it or coach it; either you have it or you don't. And a team of Belizean under 15 footballers proved that they had an abundance of heart when they travelled to the Dominican Republic for a competition last week.

They came home today and 7news along with excited family members were at the airport to greet them:...

Jules Vasquez reporting
A hero's welcome awaited the players of the Belmopan Football Talent School Selection at the international airport.

They came out of the arrival lounge to the embraces of family.

And they earned those embraces by bringing home the hardware that which is so sought after but so rarely seen, a championship cup - Gold in the Dominican Republic U-15 Football Tournament.

The under 15 players also got a VIP welcome from the Minister of Sports - and their own press conference in the airport's VIP room.

Pastor Santi Valencia who acted as their coach for the tournament explained that they've earned the recognition.

Pastor Santi Valencia, Team Organizer
"These kids they are just a bunch of Belizeans young boys that went out there to have fun; yes we did have fun, I believe the boys had fun but these boys represented Belize."

And that meant showing true grit as the tournament under-dogs against Dominican and Mexican selections:

Pastor Santi Valencia, Team Organizer
"Nothing was given to us. It wasn't handed down on a silver platter. It wasn't something that we just went over and ran over a couple kids over there. Every single step of the way these kids fought for every bit of it and literally, not just fought, almost had to fist fight in some cases but because of the discipline I saw my boys kneeling down on all fours and looking at the opponent and would raise just hang their heads and almost in tears because of the abuse, the physical abuse. We were insulted because we were the underdogs - we were Belize - we were nothing and my boys continue to fight and they bled for what they got and the Mexicans drop us but they didn't give up. They drop us 1-0 and our boys wanted to win. All I had to say to them was "this is for your family, this is for Belize, we will take this." I am telling you, some of them were in tears and they got up and they kept on fighting and at the end of the day we conquered."

Raji Solarzano, MVP for the tournament
"They had us down 1-0 at first but we dug deep and didn't give up and in spite of that we still came out with the victory."

Dimitri Faber, Team Captain
"Everyone played their role. When we had injuries, blisters, pain in our legs, we tried to forget that and we just played on and play hard and didn't give an inch to long whistle blow."

That and 3 other victories - they left the tournament undefeated and with the leading scorer and the MVP.

Renan Couoh, Coach
"The group worked very hard. This is a historic big win for Belize."

Raji Solarzano, MVP for the tournament
"It really means a lot to me because when I trained I work really hard and I take my training seriously and so I feel like all the hard work paid off."

Randy Augustine, Top scorer
"We just want to ask for more support so that football can go farther in Belize."

Raji Solarzano, MVP for the tournament
"There are a lot of dedicated players out there that really wants to succeed in the sport and get farther in the sport. We need more support."

In a statement the FFB says, "this is a Historic win for Belize since it is the first time Belize has won an International football tournament."

The Ministry of Sports committed one thousand dollars to assist the team - which was roundly criticized by members of the press as being too little.

Channel 5

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Gold medal winning U-15 football team returns to hero's welcome

Champions of Belize

There is enough negative things happening these days to bring own the entire country. That is why when something good happens, it is a refreshing break from what has become an all too familiar pattern of crime and violence leading the daily newscast. Having made the case for a departure from the norm, our lead report tonight is about a group of teenage boys who used their collective talent to make a bold statement for Belize in regional football. Love TV's Patrick Jones, video journalist Myles Gillett and intern Kenrick Selgado were at the Phillip Goldson International Airport this morning for the happy homecoming.

According to the Football Federation of Belize, the Technical Director of the FFB Renan Couoh did not accompany the team to Santo Domingo because a FIFA delegation was in the country conducting training at the time.


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"Heart of a champion"

Amandala chats with U-15 Gold Medal team coach, Santi Valencia

Jamaican reggay legend Jimmy Cliff once sang, "the harder the battle, you see, it's the sweeter the victory." And victory for our Belizean male U-15 football team and their inspired head coach Santi Valencia was sweet indeed this past Sunday in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, the very city that witnessed the Gold Medal achievement by our Belizean females in softball almost four decades ago.

The YWAM-Belize U-15 squad departed on American Airlines on Wednesday last, November 21, and returned home to a grand welcome at the Philip Goldson International Airport on Tuesday, November 27, sporting their Gold Medals and the championship cup for the tournament that involved teams from Dominican Republic, Haiti, Belize and Mexico.

But it was a hard fought victory indeed. We spoke with Santi this morning after he had visited Krem WUB along with his wife, Lilian, three players from the team - his sons Mario and Eddie along with Dmitri Fabro, and FFB National Development Director Renan Couoh, who oversaw the training of the team in Belize. However, Santi Valencia is the head coach that travelled with the team to Santo Domingo and steered them through to victory. Santi had words of thanks and appreciation to many people, including sponsors and especially the parents, whose support was vital in the whole process. But we took the opportunity to focus our discussion on the game, and get a feel of the experience our team endured, and specifically through the eyes of the coach, on their way to making history.

Amandala: The training and the commitment you put into the team� Like you said, you are a pastor?

Santi: Yes, sir. I'm a pastor, I'm a director, an administrator�

Amandala: And you got into football, but not with football being the end of your mission. So, what were you thinking when things got a bit rough� you said some of the games� the officiating was a real test for your players, and you were down twice in a game, and you struggled� and even in the final championship game� What were you thinking, in terms of the outcome of the match, if you don't win. Did you think that you might not win, or, how would you handle it with your players?

Santi: You know what? Honestly… like I said, I am a pastor� my life, I live a life of faith. I believe God speaks� and, the first game that we played, and we won that first game� there were� I knew there was a hill to climb, a mountain to climb. Mexico was before us. I saw them play� I knew� And when you watch a game, and (see) a team play� it sends some chills� because, man� this is a mountain before me here!

But the word that came to me strongly was, we were going to be victorious. It was going to be difficult, but we were going to be victorious. That was such a word, so strong that, I felt that� and I went and I talked with my boys. And they had the heart of a champion. Because when we trained them, we said "you dream like a champion; you train like a champion; you play like a champion." And so they had that heart. And so when I said that to them� somehow they connected with us� And we prayed before every game we went out� we prayed, and we went out there.

So, even� sure, you are absolutely, you know� that thought, that little thing, that tickles in your mind goes through there� but, because what the word had heard� kept me focused. And when we were down, 1-nil, I knew we will rise. And I just keep saying to my boys, "Remember boys, you have a family; you have a nation that we are representing; we must do this for our nation; we're believing for this; and you came here for this; and this is our destiny." And I keep shouting that to our boys; and they keep grasping it, and start pushing, until we equalized.

And when it became 1-1, then is when it became extremely difficult� because.. I don't like injustice. And we were treated� And this is what� it was painful for me. I respect authority; I believe in that; and I train my boys to respect the officiator of the games, you know. But� there was one point where it was so extreme� Of course, that was their team, and so I had to say� raise both my hands and go, "Referee, what is this!?" And he just looked at me.. and pointed at me and says, "You better be quiet, or you get thrown out the game." And I was� I was not a very happy preacher� I was, you know� to a point of being undignified� because, here you are just insulting me� and, and I have to protect my boys.. And.. I just looked up�

Amandala: I guess that was a test of faith�

Santi: I looked up� honestly, I had to, because I was� It was either that, or "lose it"� And I looked up, and I said, "God, you give us justice, You give us justice.." And I did that� I just took my finger, and pointed it (up) there and said, "God, you give us justice." And I just shut up; I didn't say anything else to the referee. I kept coaching my boys. "Keep pushing, boys!" They get kicked down, whatever. "Don't worry about it; don't worry about it�" And..

(To be continued in the weekend issue of the Amandala)


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