Meet the Belize Jaguars, the national ‘A’ team of the Football Federation of Belize. They are participating in the CONCACAF Nation’s League Tournament that takes place annually. On Friday night, they will go head to head with the Guatemalan team at the F.F.B. Stadium in Belmopan. The match will be broadcast live right here on Channel Five where we’ll be bringing you the play-by-play action. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.
Duane Moody, Reporting
On Friday, the home game between Belize and Guatemala takes place at the F.F.B. Stadium in Belmopan. Back in June 2022, Belize lost to Guatemala two-nil and the Jaguars plan to change those stats by the end of this upcoming face-off.
Ian Jones, Team Manager, Belize Jaguars
“This is the first of the last two matches that remain for us. So we play Guatemala on Friday night at eight p.m. at the F.F.B. stadium and then on Saturday, we go to DR to play the return match against DR. This is a revamp of the national team. You will see a lot of new young faces. The whole idea behind that is the rebuilding of the team starts now because we are about to move into a next World Cup qualifying cycle, as well as a Gold Cup qualifying cycle over the next two-year period. So we are rebuilding the team now with these young players; we still have a couple veteran players – but it is just a transition stage that we are going through but these players, I am excited every time I watch them play and I think the public, everybody who comes out to watch the game will be amazed by the level that these players are playing.”
Twenty-three athletes and their coaching staff are in the final week of practice sessions ahead of the final two matches in the CONCACAF Nation’s League. Everal Trapp is the captain of the National ‘A’ Team and he is confident in keeping the guys motivated on and off the field.
Everal Trapp, Captain, Belize Jaguars
“Every time we come in camp, we try to do our best and try to come together as a group and get the job done for the game on Friday with the coaching staff. This is the first week with full camp. The camp is well-motivated and we try to keep the group together as much and I think on Friday, we will do it together.”
Jordy Polanco, Midfielder, Belize Jaguars
“I’ve been on the national team for almost ten years now. Every time I play, I try to be calm as possible. My experience is good and I’ll try to manage the ball good and stay calm as usual. So my aim is to help the team as best possible.”
The composition of the Belize Jaguars is a mix of veteran players, young athletes, as well as nine foreign-based players who have been brought in to compliment the team. Among them is Michael Salazar.
Michael Salazar, Forward, Belize Jaguars
“I feel like I have to come out and try to set the tempo and be calm on the ball and give the group confidence and I feel like that’s something that I can help.”
“I know the preparation with the entire time has just started this week, but you think we ready, think we strong?”
“Yeah. It’s a young energetic group; I feel these young guys have something to prove cause all the older heads are watching now. The country wanted a fresh young group and I feel like we have it so now it is just time to show it.”
Salazar says that getting into the game is about routine – sleeping well, hydrating, getting the proper food in and playing with Belizean pride. The youngest player on the team is twenty-one-year-old Michael Palacio; he is the top goal scorer for the league right now.
Michael Palacio, Striker, Belize Jaguars
“We come into camp put in the work, and it is not only the preparation in the camp but also with our club teams because we play in the P.L.B. and we got to be prepared too. So it is a double-way street – we do prepare for the federation and with our clubs.”
Joining Palacio as one of the younger athletes is Krisean Lopez, who is playing in the league in El Salvador.
Krisean Lopez, Forward, Belize Jaguars
“I’ve been learning how to get this transition from attacking to defensive very well, speed of play. So everything has been great so far learning those things from the guys that I’ve been around.”
So what can you expect from the game on Friday?
“Friday we will try to do our best. I try to give my best always, especially on official matches, so Friday, we will try to get the win for the people. The main thing is to enjoy the game. It is going to be a big match. The motivation is that your people are behind you, your family is behind you, so just be calm and enjoy the game – that’s the best thing you could do.”
“Keep on working every day. Dedication and hard work can get you anywhere you wanna get in your life. We got a lot of young talented players. We just gotta mould them and keep them positive and on the right track.”
“We are playing at home in front of our fans, our people – just go out there and give everything you have. It’s not going to be perfect every time, but just show that you have heart and you just give everything for your country.”
The game starts at eight p.m. and tickets are going fast.
“Tickets are only twenty dollars. We made them very cost efficient so we can get all the Belizean fans in the stadium because I remember when we were in Guatemala, it was about fifteen thousand Guatemalan fans to about ten Belizeans so we didn’t want a repeat of that here at home. So the tickets are twenty dollars and you can get them at the F.F.B. stadium. You could also get them at any of the National Bank of Belize offices.”