Bermuda's Paul Douglas (pictured) dribbles during a Caribbean under-20 qualifier against Antigua & Barbuda on October 25, 2016, in Willemstad, Curacao. (Photo: David Heykoop)
WILLEMSTAD, Curacao – Bermuda’s qualification to the 2017 CONCACAF Under-20 Championship is a special moment in the nation’s football history, so says head coach Kyle Lightbourne.
Who could dispute that assertion? After all, the Gombey Warriors haven’t participated in the competition since 1988 in Guatemala.
“This is the first time one of our under-20 teams have made it this far in a long time and the players were singing after we qualified,” Lightbourne told CONCACAF.com. “It truly is a proud time to be Bermudan and we should cherish and rejoice about this moment. We have accomplished our mission of qualifying for Costa Rica and this is a big feather in the cap for all the players and coaches.”
In order to earn a berth in the CONCACAF event, Bermuda had to be among the top five sides in Caribbean qualifying. It advanced past the first round as one of the three best second-place teams, after posting a 2W-0D-1L record to finish three points behind Group 3 winner Haiti.
Then, in the final round, the Bermudians progressed to the semifinals thanks to securing a runner-up spot in Group A (1-1-1, 4), clinching a top-four placement, before falling 3-0 to Haiti.
Lightbourne believes that the improvement of youth development in Bermuda and the fact that many players have gone abroad to continue learning have played a key role in the most successes.
“A lot of players have been sent overseas from Bermuda and have had good coaching at youth level in the different English Leagues,” said the former Bermuda national team star, who enjoyed a long career in England. “Also the development level in Bermuda has improved and we are hoping we can continue it on moving forward with our youth teams.”
The 48-year-old also noted that he and his staff had planned extensively for the tournament in a bid to prevent Bermuda from falling short of its objectives once again.
“As coaches, we have been talking about making it through to further rounds in competitions and we have been able to do that this time around…it is a wonderful feeling,” he finished. “In the past, we could have done better, but now we have achieved our goal. Now we are looking to prepare for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.”
Bermuda’s best performances in CONCACAF under-20 play came when it reached the playoff round in 1974 and the quarterfinals in 1980.