Let’s hear it for the Belize Home Team!
The Belize Jaguars will face the US in Portland this month for the 2013 Soccer Gold Cup
In a David and Goliath match of suitably epic proportions, and for the first time in history, Belize will be going mano a mano against the USA for the 2013 soccer Gold Cup. The match, to be held July 9 at the historic Jeld-Wen field in Portland, Oregon, is expected to attract capacity crowds and millions of viewers across the Americas and Canada.
The Belize Jaguars qualified to contest the Gold Cup and face off against Team USA after achieving the best result at the regional finals during the 2013 Copa Centroamericana competition.
According to Soccer America Daily, “The Jaguars took advantage of Guatemala's failure to win any of its three group games and finished second in its group to clinch a berth in the Gold Cup.”
That’s some achievement when you consider that Belize only played its first international match in 1995 and did not play in a World Cup qualifier until 1996.
And what will make this match even more interesting is the fact that the US team, with so little time to go before the match, suffered injuries to two key players, Joshua Gatt and Corey Ashe, putting those players’ participation in the Gold Cup in doubt.
The Gold Cup is contested every two years and is now firmly established as the region's most popular national team tournament, these days drawing capacity crowds and attracting millions of viewers across the region. Featuring the best players from the confederation, the tournament includes the top 12 nations in the region.
This year’s Gold Cup will be contested in a mix of historic venues with new, state-of-the-art soccer facilities, and organisers have promised that fans both in the stadiums and at home will enjoy an unforgettable, world class event.
Belize will be going up against the US in one of the most historic of those venues. The Jeld-Wen field, opened in 1926, has played host to US presidential visits and a memorable 1957 concert by the King, Elvis Presley. It was also the site of the National Football League’s first game decided by overtime, Pelé’s last professional game and the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup. A fitting pedigree for hosting Belize’s first Gold Cup clash against the mighty USA.
The 2013 qualifying teams are, in alphabetical order; Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Trinidad & Tobago and the United States.
After Belize, the US will go on to play Cuba on the 13th and Costa Rica on the 16th.
Soccer, known to most of the world as football, continues to grow in popularity, especially in the US, where those other balls - gridiron football, basketball and baseball dominate the national sports consciousness. Belize has always had strong village and district competition, and with interest and sponsorship on the rise, we expect to see the Jewel become more of a force in regional and international competition.
So mark the 9th of July on your calendar, break out those flags, organise snacks and refreshments, and get ready to cheer the Jaguars on. Who knows? This could be the little tropical David’s big year.
We’ll keep you posted, and… Go Jaguars!
Photo credit: Belize Football Federation