It’s been a long time since Bahamians had an opportunity to cheer for their senior men’s national beach soccer team at home. The wait is over as they will get to see them next weekend, and as a bonus, the women’s national beach soccer team will also be in action at the Beach Soccer Stadium at Malcolm Park. They will be playing in the Bahamas Beach Soccer Cup 2022, set for October 21-23.
The men will play against Colombia, Costa Rica and
Trinidad and Tobago. The women will play against Trinidad and Tobago and the neighboring Turks and Caicos Islands.
Games will get underway at 6 p.m. on the three days. The Bahamian men will play at 8:30 p.m. each day while the Bahamian women play at 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free.
This is the first time that men’s team will play at home since 2018 and the first time the women will play in an international match at home.
Guardian Sports was out at both practices and caught up with the coaches and players. Veteran Lesly St. Fleur is no stranger to playing in front of local fans. He said he was waiting to have the opportunity to play at home again.
“We are happy to finally get the games here,” St. Fleur said. “We have been waiting for this. We have to get back to the noise and the fans cheering. It will be good to see them. We get to play in front of our fans who come to see us play so we must go out there and put on a show and don’t disappoint our country.”
Women’s Head Coach Daria Adderley will be coaching an international beach soccer game at home for the first time and said she expects a competitive tournament.
“I am very excited because this is the first time that the country is going to see our women play an international match at home. We have different players on the field now because a few went off to school. However, we still bring the competitiveness because we are the top-ranked Caribbean team. We will be playing Trinidad for the first time and we have played Turks before. It will be exciting,” Adderley said.
The women’s team is ranked at number 18, as of September 30, in the Beach Soccer Worldwide Rankings, but is the
top-ranked team in the Caribbean region. Trinidad and Tobago and Turks and Caicos are not ranked.
Adderley is looking to win both games. She said she is happy to see women coming out and engaging in beach soccer. She praised the efforts of Bahamas Football Association’s (BFA) Women’s Director Soraya Toppin-Herbert.
“I have been a part of women’s football for years so to see these young women come out and stick with it, speaks volumes for the program. That is credit to Toppin-Herbert for her tenacity, getting the ladies to come out and play,” Adderley said.
The men’s team is coming into this tournament ranked at number 38 in the Beach Soccer Worldwide Rankings. Colombia is ranked the highest in the tournament at number 26 while Costa Rica is at number 52. Trinidad and Tobago is positioned at number 54.
Men’s Head Coach Gavin Christie said playing at home is one of the advantages that his squad has. Christie has represented the country in the sport for many years and likes that there are new faces this year.
“The difference with this team is that we have a lot of new faces. Talent has come on to the team. We have a handful of younger players who are playing in their first international beach soccer tournament. It will be fun and interesting for them along with a great experience,” Christie said.
He spoke about changing hats as he steps off the field and on to the sidelines to pass down his knowledge of the game.
“Coaching and helping this team get ready for the upcoming tourney has been a great experience. It is the kick-off to the Beach Soccer World Cup qualifying process. That is one of the things we are using this tournament for. We are looking to rejuvenate the beach soccer program in The Bahamas. We want the guys to get back into training and let the new guys get some experience. Hopefully, the program will keep going at a robust pace right up to the world cup qualifiers,” Christie stated.
Gina Stubbs is one of the custodians on the women’s team. She will be looking to help the team climb the rankings.
“We played in April, and we want to build off of that. We want to move up in the rankings. When we first started, we had a few members and the number gradually increased. It is a lot to run on the sand, but it is a lot of fun getting dirty. I get dirtier because I have to dive to make saves but I enjoy it,” Stubbs said.
Looking to score her first international goal is Hadassah Knowles. She is not looking to score just one but at least three goals in this competition, she said.
“We have a goal in mind every time we play which is to outscore the opponent. Practice has been going good. I am happy that I will have my family and friends in the stands cheering me on so it is a great opportunity,” Knowles said.
One of the goalkeepers for the men’s team is Michael Butler who is playing in a semi-professional league for the FBS-FC soccer club in Miami, Florida. He was at his first practice on Tuesday night and said he felt like he never left. He said the chemistry with his teammates is still there. He hopes to help control the tempo of the game.
“Everything I learned, the tempo, building up from the back, is there. We pride ourselves in being the fittest and the fastest team. From what I learned abroad, controlling the tempo and knowing when to use speed and when to slow down, is important. I think controlling the tempo is what I hope to bring to the team,” said Butler.
St. Fleur was shortlisted as one of the 100 best male players in the world. The winner of the best male player will be announced at the Beach Soccer Stars Gala on November 6 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
“We have been preparing for this tournament for a while and it has been going well,” St. Fleur said. “We just need a few more training sessions to get match fit but between now and then we will be ready to go. The key is to communicate with each other. Everyone has to listen to each other, play hard and fight for each other. With the new ones coming in, there is no change in the game and that is why we train. We have to help them, and they help us. With my experience, I have to help coach because I can see the game, so I have to help get them ready.”
St. Fleur said his goal is to help the team win even if it means he ends the tournament goalless.
The final rosters for both teams will be released later.