The UNCAF Championships is being hosted in Belize from April twenty-fourth through to the thirtieth at the F.F.B. and the Isidoro Beaton Stadiums in Belmopan. Seven Central American countries and Puerto Rico will converge in Belize to face-off in matches in two groups. Belize’s national U-20 team is in group ‘A’ along with El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua. They have been sharpening their skills for months and engaging in international friendly matches. Tonight, we go behind the scenes at one of their workout sessions at the F.F.B. headquarters in Belmopan.
Duane Moody, Reporting
The UNCAF Championship Games are three days away and team Belize has been working hard as it is a U-20 World Cup qualifier. Just back from international friendly matches in Mexico, the team is already on the pitch continuing with their training routine.
Philip Marin, Technical Development Director, F.F.B.
“The UNCAF U-19 championship is a qualifier for the 2023 U-20 FIFA World Cup so this is a preparation tournament for all the Central American countries. The preparation has been good. We were in Chetumal for one week, where we played three matches. We managed to win two games and we lost one. We also had a preparation match here in Belize, so the preparation has been good. We have been working very hard. We have been studying our opponent because our first game will be against Nicaragua on Sunday, and our second game will be against El Salvador Tuesday and on Thursday we play Honduras.”
The players, who are a mix of international and local Belizean athletes, say that they are ready for the championship games and to have Belize qualify.
Isaac Castillo, Goalkeeper, Belize Male U-19 Football Team
“I feel very prepared. The team and I have been training for over three months now, since the beginning of the year we have been training together, building that chemistry. We had international friendlies that helped us as a team a lot, and we are definitely prepared and ready to fight for our country. It is quite an honor knowing that you could play the sport that you love in front of your loved ones, showing them that you do have the talent and that we appreciate everything that they do for us, all the support that they give us.”
Eldon Reneau, Center Attacking,
Belize Male U-19 Football Team
“I’ve been on the national team four years now and it’s been a good experience. Lotta exposure and ways to build your game. It is better here because it is more organized, professional, good coaching, etc.”
“How do you feel going into what will be official games against Central America and Puerto Rico?”
“Well I feel confident because this is not our first time here. We have been working hard, the team is good, we are confident and we look ready to be honest. And we’re putting in the work so we are going to see how that is going to work out for us.”
Michael Medina, Midfielder, Belize Male U-19 Football Team
“This is my first international experience playing here in Belize so I am very excited to be a part of this whole organization and tournament. This event is amazing; it is great exposure for everyone. Preparation has been, I believe we are improving a lot and I can’t wait to see how we perform in the upcoming games.”
“Do you feel confident that you guys are going to take home a win?”
“Yeah I feel very confident with the team we have. Overall I just feel that we just have to be confident playing to pull a good result.”
Technical Development Director Philip Marin believes that the outcome will be in favour of Belize because the F.F.B. has restructured its focus on developing the sport for some years now.
“To be honest, when we compete against Central American countries, it is very hard. These countries are far more developed than us when it comes to the structure of football. They have different categories from U-10 all the way to senior team, to players that are playing outside of their country. But since 2018, we have focused a lot on youth development, on grassroots development and we have structured football where we have competition from U-13, from U-15, U-17, U-19 and U-20 at the elite level where we try to capture the best players in each region and have them competing for more than three to four months.”