FREEPORT, Grand Bahama – Whether you call it soccer or football, the game has gained a reputation as one of the world’s most popular team sports. With a history that dates back about three thousand years, it is played by 250 million players in over 200 countries, including The Bahamas. On Grand Bahama, and throughout the country, the Bahamas Football Association (BFA) has led a charge in making the game widely accessible to hundreds of young athletes.
Founded in 1967, the BFA has welcomed men, women and children interested in the sport and became officially affiliated with FIFA (International Federation of Association Football) in 1968. In its 53rd year, the BFA continues to serve as the nation’s official football federation and as part of its mandate, has built a platform of inclusion that allows its members access to resources from around the world. In late August 2019, the BFA, under the leadership of Anton Sealey, formed a partnership with the Scottish Football Association (SFA). Under this partnership, and with the approval of UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) Assist, the associations designed a cohesive program to provide developmental, technical support and coaching education and for players in The Bahamas.
Unfortunately, the passage of Hurricane Dorian in September quickly sidelined the initiatives planned. Determined to lend its assistance, however, the SFA shifted its focus to meet the immediate needs of local athletes.
“We were so moved when the team from SFA inquired about ways they could assist our islands in the wake of the storm,” said BFA Deputy Secretary General Carl Lynch. “We agreed that equipment would be the highest priority in rebooting the grassroots programs in Abaco and Grand Bahama.”
The work of ordering and shipping began immediately but sadly was hindered by restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As restrictions have relaxed, both the BFA and SFA have worked to solidify all the elements of its assistance program.
“We’re happy to announce that the shipment of donated equipment has arrived on Grand Bahama and today is being made available to players through the various summer sports programs,” Lynch explained.
During a press conference held on Grand Bahama this week, representatives from the Freeport Rugby Football Club (FRFC), the Grand Bahama Soccer Club and the Grand Bahama secondary and primary schools athletic associations received donations that included proper large, medium and small metal goals, training pop-up goals, flags, sports bags, cones and new footballs. The donations will be immediately followed up by assessments to determine how additional resources can be provided to help get the various football (soccer) programs get back on track.
“Our association is so grateful for this wonderful donation for our schools and our football program,” said Gia Walker, president of the Grand Bahama Principals and Vice Principals Association. “Our programs have progressed so far but were wiped out by Dorian and have now been curtailed by COVID-19. We hope that this equipment will allow our season to kick into full gear when school resumes.”
In the coming weeks, the BFA will also expand its work with their Scottish partners on the development of the BFA Center of Excellence based on New Providence. The initiative, which was also unveiled at the press conference, will recognize top-rated male and female players in the country, providing them with additional selection opportunities for national teams. The program will work to encourage athletic excellence while teaching character building and life skills as well.
“Again, due to the impact of COVID-19, we had to cancel the Samuel P. Haven Jr. High School Soccer Nationals,” explained Anya James, BFA executive. “We are looking to have all our programs back up and on track by the start of the school year, as well as national and international games playing as soon as possible – but this will be dependent on COVID-19 regulations and social distancing necessities.”
The donation from the SFA is estimated to have cost over $40,000 and was shipped by Skyway Shipping Solutions and stored for free by Freeport Ship Services in Grand Bahama. Speaking to the media about the donation, FRFC President Robert Speller said he was thrilled to receive and help facilitate donations in Grand Bahama.
“This will get our club back on track for our football teams, camps and ongoing programs,” noted Speller. “We have spent the last 10 months repairing our club, rebuilding our pitch, and we had lost most of our equipment. So, our huge thanks to the SFA, UEFA Assist, and our own BFA who are making it possible for us to keep our regular programs on course.”
The donations were made this past week in Freeport, Grand Bahama.