Caribbean Club Championship
“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)
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