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Apr 13, 2018

Ladies in Action on the Football Field

The Football Federation of Belize kicks off the second National Amateur Women’s Football League tournament this weekend. Eight teams from north to south are participating, in the hunt for Belize’s place in the regional inter-club women’s championship in September in Panama. The Federation is paying most of the costs to organize the tournament but its director of women’s football, Iris Centeno, says the goal is to have the league be self-sustained in the mode of its bigger cousin, the Premier League of Belize, in less than two years. News Five’s Aaron Humes has more, including a one-on-one with head coach of Belize City’s entry and defending champions, Millennium.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Belize’s national male football team, the Jaguars, are a household name both nationally and in the region. But now, says director of women’s football Iris Centeno, it’s time for the girls to make their mark. And it starts at home with the second season of the National Amateur Women’s League, which for now is being sponsored by the Football Federation of Belize. But the helping hand will only last for so long.

 

Iris Centeno

Iris Centeno, Women’s Football Director, F.F.B.

“I am very thankful to the President because he accepted my budget; he has decided to support our teams. This is the first time teams are being given uniforms, first aid kit; the referees will be fully paid, we will be providing fifty percent transportation to all teams and match balls will be given. Also, the champion of this tournament will be fully paid to travel and all their expense, so Mr. President, thanks so much for the support. Our league has a long-term objective: our objective is the National Amateur Women’s League becomes independent. Right now, we are fully dependent on the F.F.B. Later on, we want to have our membership, our body of executives running our league whereby we will be independent – our objective is to be independent in 2020. So I hope that this happens, then we will be running our offices, everything independent.”

 

According to vice-president Cruz Gamez, the Federation has plans to make women’s football as much of a household name as the men.

 

Cruz Gamez

Cruz Gamez, Vice President, Football Federation of Belize 
“The federation is now embarking on a very ambitious project for women’s football from the grassroots up to the elite players and we hope to get the entire community involved with this. Football has been playing, been flourishing around the country, and in our region the United States’ Women’s national selection has won the Women’s World Cup two times, and we want to have our women do the same thing in Belize – if we cannot reach the World Cup at some level we know we can be competitive.”

 

The funding for the tournament, according to F.F.B. President Sergio Chuc, comes from FIFA’s project funding of which the F.F.B. has been aggressively taking advantage of.

 

Sergio Chuc

Sergio Chuc, President, Football Federation of Belize

“The work that we are doing here – may seem like a lot of work, but as I had mentioned to Miss Ali earlier, it’s not a lot of work – it’s just that I think our focus was wrong. FIFA has funding for each member association in two categories: they have automatic funding which is the operational costs, operational funding, and they have the grant funding which is for projects. And for too many years we hadn’t been focusing on the project funding, and that is why it seems like we can do a lot of things right now, because we are focusing on project funding. The operational cost is automatic, the operational funding. We hired a full time person at the Federation to focus only on writing the plans and getting these funding.”

 

Anthony Phillips, head coach of defending national champions Belize City Millennium, says recognition has been a long time coming, but his team is ready.

 

Anthony Phillips

Anthony Phillips, Head Coach, Belize City Millennium

“We look good. We have three days’ practice every week, I would say for the past three weeks, and we’re looking good right now. So we’re not a hundred percent right now but I would say we’re up there. I think it’s a good idea and it’s something that should have happened a long time ago. But it’s an ongoing, slow process so we’re just going to ride with the program.”

 

Aaron Humes

“And as you said, despite your rebuilding a bit, you still think you have the favorite team going into the championship?”

 

Anthony Phillips

“That’s kind of hard to say, but I think we’re going to go out there and do our best.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.
Phillips’ Millennium takes on Corozal Scorpions on Saturday afternoon at the M.C.C. Grounds. The format is round-robin in two zones, north and south. The top two go to the semifinals, then the winners to the finals and the overall winner goes to Panama for the international tournament.

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