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Jan 11, 2017

Meet the Jaguars – They’re Off to Panama!

The national team departed Belize today for Panama with hopes running high as they embark on the first round of competition in regional games that lead to the Gold Cup. There are new international players to complement the home grown footballers who made the cut on the national team and there is also a new coach. In their first match, Belize will take on the host country this week. News Five’s Duane Moody was on hand at the P.G.I.A. for the departure of the Jaguars.

 

Duane Moody, Reporting

The 2017 UNCAF Copa Centroamericana Games is scheduled to begin on January thirteenth through to January twenty-second at the Estadio Romero Fernandez in Panama. And since December of last year, the team has been undergoing intense training with Polish Football Coach, Richard Orlowski. Today, the team left the Jewel en route to Panama, but not before a reveal of their new jerseys and an official meet and greet with the twenty-three-member team and its coaching staff and delegation. According to F.F.B. President Marlon Kuylen, the team is made of veteran and young athletes who are hungry for a win.

 

Marlon Kuylen

Marlon Kuylen, President, F.F.B.

“We are very hungry I must say. Of course with the experience and the knowledge that the international players bring to the team, it improves our chances. We all feel very good about this team. I’ve been around national teams for a long time and with the sentiments of the players, we believe that this is the best team that we have ever put before. So we are very happy and optimistic of our chances in Panama.”

 

Richard Orlowski

Richard Orlowski, Coach, National Football Team

“I can tell you the defensive is very confident and we got good transition from defending to attacking. And if you watched the last game, I’m not worried. It is very good chemistry like we said and I would like to mention about our international players like Salazar, Nano, West, Atkinson and West the goalkeeper. They are very professional and they bring something new to the team; the team is more discipline and they work harder.”

 

Star Defender Ian Gaynair is no stranger to Belizean football fans; he was the athlete who made the single goal for the country in the Gold Cup, three years ago. His passion for the sport started eight years ago and has represented the country in most international matches. The twenty-seven-year-old says that the experience this time around proves that the team is prepared to win.

 

Ian Gaynair

Ian Gaynair, Midfielder, Belize National Team

“I really think we put in sufficient training to go and compete in this tournament. I feel really positive about it and lot of confidence that we will go out there and really qualify in this tournament; that’s the bottom-line.”

 

Several international players were selected to form the national team, including Michael Salazar, Makonnan Clare and Nana Mensah. Playing as a forward on the team, Salazar spoke about bringing composure to the team.

 

Michael Salazar

Michael Salazar, Forward, Belize National Team

“It’s a big step and a high level I play at every single day. I bring a lot of composure to the team, try to calm everybody down and just live in the moment. Hopefully I can display my skills at this level because I know that it is an even higher level and help the team qualify for the next round.”

 

At today’s media briefing, the Coach identified twenty-year-old Jordy Polanco as Belize’s Lionel Messi. The midfielder has been playing the sport for the past four years; he started out playing with Freedom Fighters Club and says it’s a privilege to participate in the tournament since he has exhibited excellent ball-control.

 

Jordy Polanco

Jordy Polanco, Midfielder

“This tournament, if I start, I can show my skills. I have a lot of confident. I believe in myself and I believe that I can help my teammates. I hope I can get the opportunity to play. This comes natural, but talent isn’t enough. You have to work hard, you have to train. You have to eat, sleep and dream about football so that’s what I do.”

 

The last time the national team participated in the regional competition was 2013 and Belize advanced to the 2014 Gold Cup. Coming out of that competition, Team Belize was rivaled for its defensive strength. So, has our strategy changed? But that aside, who do we need to beat and can Belizeans expect a repeat performance?

 

Marlon Kuylen

“It’s a round-robin tournament; every point counts. We’re going with the mindset that we can beat everybody. We always go with that optimism and when you speak to the players, they feel the same way.”

 

Ian Gaynair

“The difference from last time is now we gained more experience, now we know how to raise the bar, how to bring the bar down and everything. With all that said, all of us are like brothers on the team. Everyone show each other love; we don’t have no negative energy around.”

 

Duane Moody for News Five.

 

Team Belize plays Panama on Friday and Costa Rica on Sunday. Then after another day’s rest, the national team battles El Salvador on Tuesday and then Nicaragua and Honduras on the twentieth and twenty-second of January, respectively. 

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