By Dyllan Lawrence/Marion Ali, Staff Reporters
The Jaguars National Football Team members, Deon McCauley included, are expected to report to camp on Monday to begin their training in preparation for the next round of eliminations in the World Cup games, when they face the Dominican Republic in a few months.
McCauley, Belize’s star striker, had become the main topic of discussion when he did not appear for the first two games against the Cayman Islands in March, arrived in Belize on Friday, at the invitation of a group of young civilians who went on a $1 drive to raise $5,000 to cover the cost of McCauley’s plane ticket and his stipend for the duration of the camp. That effort was deemed necessary after the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) said it couldn’t provide McCauley with a plane ticket to travel from the U.S., where he had been playing for almost a year. McCauley, however, was one of several members on the Atlanta Silverbacks team who were relieved for financial reasons.
On Saturday April 15th, Football Federation of Belize (FFB) President, Ruperto Vicente explained that McCaulay was ineligible by FFB rules to be brought home using Federation money. Later within the week the group of fans that refer to themselves as the Association of Belizeans Concerned with getting Deon Home (ABCD) raised the funds within two days.
Cordelia Belizaire, one of the members of the association, explained, “we’ve had a lot of persons contact us in supporting us financially to get Deon home, which we very much appreciated and grateful for … there were 10 of us actually who were actually involved in mobilizing and getting the pledge sheets out and collecting the funds needed. We had numerous offers from different businesses. One thing that we wanted to stick to was the fact that we wanted Belizeans to do it. For the love of football, the fans, to support, to show Deon how much we really appreciate him…”.
Besides attaining the $5,000, Reynaldo Malik, a member of the National Team Committee, personally made an airline ticket available for McCaulay.
McCauley arrived on the same flight as Vicente, who had travelled out of the country earlier in the week. McCaulay told reporters that he appreciated the effort to get him home.
“The people of this country are great people, you know, and they stand up for what is right and I thank them very much for everything they have done for me. I thank the general population of Belize, you know, for the donations, for everything that they have done, you know, and it makes me feel good to know that the people appreciate me…”, McCauley said.
The football star said he had no qualms with the FFB’s stance. “At the end of the day, I am here to work and that’s the bottom line. I am not here to make friends with anybody or to bring any bad blood to the team. I am here to help the team…”, he continued.
Meanwhile, in a brief interview with the media, Vicente said he supported the effort of the people, but he would make the same decision as before because it was in tandem with regulations.
“It shows a level of patriotism; It shows a level of commitment to the country. I have to embrace that, but at the same time, we must also understand that there are rules in place. Because we are changing things at the football federation. Nobody comes to the federation or to the national team automatically. Every time we called the national team, even if you have been on the national team for 15-20 years, you have to come back and prove yourself. That is the criteria that has been in place and we are enforcing that kind of criteria. So, for the Belizeans coming to support Deon coming home – to prove himself and try out for the national team – is a welcome gesture.”
McCauley has scored 17 goals internationally for Belize – the most by any football player in recent memory.