Caribbean Club Cham­pi­onship

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“The lo­cal league gets 600 to 800 peo­ple watch­ing ...for an is­land of 20,000 that’s good” Errol Sint Jago

CONCACAF’s con­tro­ver­sial power grab in the Caribbean may have up­set some in the re­gion, but it is cer­tainly ben­e­fit­ting Bon­aire, as the Dutch-con­trolled is­land barely reg­is­tered in the old Caribbean Football Union (CFU).

Bon­aire is now in the CFU and a full CONCACAF mem­ber, but it still re­tains sup­port from the Dutch FA (KNVB), which funds youth pro­grammes run by Errol Sint Jago, a for­mer striker from Bon­aire who played for Nether­lands An­tilles.

Sint Jago, who was with Tel­star for the 1981-82 sea­son in Hol­land, has been work­ing for the KNVB’s World Coach pro­gramme since 2003. Over the last decade he has run train­ing camps for nearly 300 chil­dren and adults on Bon­aire and says: “The im­por­tant thing is that they have a lot of youth teams on the is­land. Soc­cer is the num­ber one sport.

“The lo­cal league gets 600 to 800 peo­ple watch­ing matches and for an is­land of 20,000 peo­ple that’s pretty good.”

Founded in 1959, Ve­spo is the old­est of Bon­aire’s nine clubs, whose names mir­ror the is­land’s myr­iad in­flu­ences: Atletiko Tera Kora (ATK), Ju­ven­tus, Uruguay, Real Rin­con, Estrel­las, Atletiko Flamingo, Ariba Peru and Vitesse.

The only chance of these teams to qual­i­fy­ing for a re­gional com­pe­ti­tion came through the An­til­lean Cup, which was an end-of-sea­son tour­na­ment be­tween the top two sides from Aruba, Bon­aire and Cu­ra­cao. Two sides then qual­i­fied for the CONCACAF Cham­pi­ons Cup, and Ju­ven­tus fea­tured in 1989 – af­ter fin­ish­ing An­til­lean Cup run­ners-up – but as the small­est is­land, clubs from Bon­aire faced an up­hill task to qual­ify.

But af­ter CONCACAF be­gan running CFU com­pe­ti­tions last year, Bon­aire’s cham­pi­ons Real Rin­con were handed a place in the sec­ond tier of this year’s new Caribbean Club Cham­pi­onship. And they sur­passed ex­pec­ta­tions by win­ning Group B in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic af­ter beat­ing Gre­nada’s Hard Rock 3-1 and draw­ing 2-2 with Av­enues United from St Vin­cent & the Gre­nadines.

Real then lost 2-0 in the semi-fi­nals to even­tual win­ners Club Fran­cis­cain from Mar­tinique but fin­ished third with a 2-0 vic­tory over Na­cional from Aruba.

Those re­sult jus­ti­fied CONCACAF’s de­ci­sion to make Bon­aire a full mem­ber in 2013 and, along with five other non-FIFA mem­bers in the Caribbean, Bon­aire is now be­ing helped by FIFA through its For­ward Ter­ri­to­ries fund to en­able par­tic­i­pa­tion in the new CONCACAF League of Na­tions.

Con­ti­nen­tal ac­tion...Real Rin­con (in blue)

Sup­port...a Real Rin­con fan

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