Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
May 2017 (SportsPro Magazine) – Anton Sealey, president of the Bahamas Football Association (BFA), discusses the benefits of being the host nation of Fifa’s Beach Soccer World Cup and what the event’s legacy will be.
A 4-1 win over Ecuador on Monday saw The Bahamas bow out of the ongoing Fifa Beach Soccer World Cup on a high note, but for Bahamas Football Association (BFA) president Anton Sealey, the real benefits for the host nation will be felt long after the event concludes on Sunday.
As well as the economic and branding benefits of staging beach soccer’s blue riband event – an event televised in more than 180 countries around the world – authorities in The Bahamas are looking to position this laid-back island nation as a hub for the sand-based game in the Caribbean region. Having invested in the construction of a US$2.5 million, 3,000-seat permanent facility on the turquoise shores of the country’s capital Nassau, it is hoped the legacy of the World Cup will live on in the next generation of Bahamian soccer stars.
Ahead of Thursday’s quarter-finals, Sealey sat down with SportsPro to reflect on the success of the tournament so far and to share his thoughts on the future of soccer in the Caribbean, a much-maligned region whose embattled administrators are vying to turn a page under new Concacaf president Victor Montagliani.
SP: How has the tournament gone so far?
AS: The teams have all played exceptionally well. The usual suspects have acquitted themselves as expected, as you can see in the quarter-finals. Even the games in the earlier rounds were competitive for the most part. The facility has played very well; the sand is great. All the coaches and players have commented on the quality of the sand and the facility itself. Once the players are happy, once the coaches are happy, I think that’s half the battle done.
If there has been any room for improvement, it’s the fan attendance for the early games. I think that’s something we need to look at in future, the scheduling, because of the sun. It is brutally hot out there and I think the sun kept fans away for the early games.
For an event like this, people will come out as long as they’re playing, so even if we pushed [the games] back – say, kick off at five o’clock – that would have been much better. But of course, as in all these things, TV is a consideration; TV dictated the schedule and that was a little unfortunate as it kept crowds down.
But other than that, the experience and the facility – there are no bad seats. Everyone who has visited the facility and seen the games have commented both on social media and in the local press, raving about the facility. We’re very happy with what we’ve been able to accomplish.
You’ve opted to build a permanent venue rather than hiring a modular one and dismantling it once the tournament is over. What role will the venue play for soccer in The Bahamas and how do you plan to utilise it after the tournament?
That was an intentional act. We wanted to maintain the facility because we realised, given the nature of our population and our demographics, there’s a situation here where our kids go to school in the United States or North America and Europe as early as 16. We have a tendency to lose our football stars. Those in the grass game, we tend to lose them to university and colleges, so it’s very difficult to maintain a cohesive national team sport on the grass. It’s very difficult.
But in beach soccer, of course, it’s not as difficult. One, you don’t require as much resources, as many players, and the players can play at a later stage in their career. In the grass game, a player of 28, 30, 32 now is at the tail-end of his career, whereas on the beach you can extend it into your early 40s, as you’ve seen here with the likes of Madjer and [Dejan] Stankovic.
Being a student of the Brazilian game, we know that the Brazilians start off on the beach. This whole facility was designed so that we can begin training our younger players on the beach, so that they can then develop the kinds of skills that you can develop on the grass – bicycle kicks and trick shots and so on – without the fear of falling on a hard surface. A higher skill level is developed on the sand, so it was intentional.
And beyond beach soccer, we thought the facility could be used for other disciplines such as beach volleyball, which is very popular, and even concerts. The facility will be utilised heavily. We do have an annual regional tournament we call the Kalik Cup, which is held over the holiday weekend in October. As a part of Concacaf, we are looking to develop four of these facilities in our region and we will have a circuit. This will be the anchor stadium, if you will, for that particular tournament. As we in Concacaf look to develop the game in the region, this facility is intended to play a vital role within the region, not only in The Bahamas.