Bermuda football on rise as U-20 Championship looms

Bermuda's Paul Douglas (pictured) looks up the field against Antigua & Barbuda in a Caribbean under-20 qualifier on October 25, 2016, in Willemstad, Curacao. (Photo: David Heykoop)

HAMILTON, Bermuda – It has been a very good year for men’s football in Bermuda.

After all, the senior squad reached the third round of the Caribbean Cup and the under-17 side advanced to the Caribbean finals.

The crowning achievement, though, was reeled in by the under-20 contingent, which earned a place in the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship on the strength of a third-place finish in Caribbean qualifying.

Mark Wade, president of the Bermuda Football Association, believes that the sport in his country is heading in the right direction.

“It is the championships of CONCACAF where the best twelve U-20 teams in the region come together and play,” said Wade. “There are no easy games at this level and to have Bermuda as one of the twelve teams speaks volumes about the growth and development of football in Bermuda, especially for youth football. We are hoping to show the region that we can compete and play good football.”

Bermuda hasn’t competed in the CONCACAF event since 1992, when it had a draw and two losses in three matches. The Gombey Warriors will have a chance to improve on that mark in the 2017 edition, when last week’s draw put them in Group C with Trinidad & Tobago (February 19), El Salvador (Feb. 22) and host Costa Rica (Feb. 25).

Preparation plans have been put in place and the serious business will soon begin.

“We will be having a camp in December, as well as January, with the possibility of a few practice games,” head coach Kyle Lightbourne remarked. “With all of these areas combined, I am confident we can go and take on the best of CONCACAF and get positive results. It is the first time in a long time that we are in this tournament, however, I believe with organization and all players in camp, things will click for us just like they did in Curacao in the CFU Qualifiers.”

Bermuda’s best performances in CONCACAF Under-20 play were appearances in the second round and the quarterfinals in 1974 and 1980, respectively.