The undefeated under-15 boys football selection from Belmopan returned home to a heroes’ welcome on Tuesday morning, November 27, after their stunning and unprecedented triumph of winning gold in a quadrangular under-15 football tournament in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic last Sunday, November 25.
Minister of State with responsibility for Sports, Hon. Herman Longsworth, welcomed the boys home at a press conference held at the VIP lounge at the Philip Goldson International Airport.
He pledged a $1,000 contribution to the efforts of the Belmopan organizers who made the trip possible.
Organizers noted that their travel expenses for the tournament had been in excess of $40,000. The delegation would not have been possible without many kind donations from interested business people who support football in Belize.
The Belize boys entered the tournament as underdogs, but they won the gold medal finals, winning 2-1 over the national “A” selection of the Dominican Republic.
Randy Augustine won an individual gold award for scoring the most goals in the tournament. It was his sixth goal of that gave Belize the 1-0 lead in the finals.
The hosts equalized the score but Marlon Garcia score a second, winning goal for Belize to take the gold.
Augustine and Garcia had sturdy support from the most Valuable Player of the tournament, their midfield general
Rogie Salarzano ,who set up the winning plays.
The Belize boys qualified for the finals when they upset the Mexican selection from Guadalajara, Jalisco 2-1 on Saturday.
Augustine had already shown himself to be skilful striker to be reckoned with, scoring five goals in Belize’s first two outings.
Guadalajara scored first, and Belize looked to equalize, but Augustine was a marked man with Mexican defenders guarding him. This left Demetri Fabro, of semipro FC Belize fame, wide open, and it cost the Mexicans dearly because Fabro scored both goals for Belize’s 2-1 win.
The Belize boys also triumphed 2-1 over the Dominican Republic’s national “A” selection in their first encounter on Friday, again with Augustine and Marlon Garcia each scoring a goal for Belize’s victory.
Augustine had a blast, scoring a hat trick plus one in Belize’s debut match against the Dominican Republic’s northern selection on Thursday. Belize won 4-3!
Kenneth Budna of Belmopan Bandits, who has also won several caps on the Belize national team, coached the Belmopan boys to this golden success, with help from assistant coach Santiago Valencia.
Coach Renan Couoh, the technical director for the Football Federation of Belize, was also present to welcome the boys home.
He had spent three months training the team for the tournament, even though he could not accompany them on their tour de force, because the trip coincided with the visit by a top level delegation from the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) last week.
The selection travelled to the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, November 20, with little fanfare, but returned to Belize in a blaze of glory.