Though many are still yet to render their unflinching support, in one form or the other, Vincentians in the United States are generally rallying around the national football (soccer) team, known as Vincy Heat, as it attempts to beat the mighty U.S. Soccer Team in a FIFA World Cup pre-qualifying match on Friday, Nov. 13.
The all-important 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier, semifinal round, takes place at Busch Stadium, St. Louis, Mo in America’s heartland.
“I make an appeal to Vincies; we’re one people,” said Sports Ambassador Stanley “Luxie” Morris, a former national football captain and head coach for Team SVG in the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Football Cup (CFU).
“I’m hoping the guys (players) will do well,” added Morris, a member of the Brooklyn-based Local Organizing Committee (LOC), spearheaded by ex-national star Renson Haynes, at a press conference and “Meet and Greet” session Sunday night at Tropical Paradise Ballroom on Utica Avenue in Brooklyn.
As he appealed for greater support for Vincy Heat, Haynes, who plays in the CFC, under Morris, said that the mere fact that Vincy Heat will be opposing the U.S. on its own turf is a major milestone.
“It’s sort of emotional — to be honest with you,” he said, pausing intermittently, his voice getting hoarse and his eyes welling up with tears. “It’s a dream come true. I’ve always said I’ll always be passionate [about Vincy Heat World Cup advancement].
“We have the raw talent,” he added. “Without you all [nationals], this will not be a reality. We’re all for this; we’re here together.”
Newly-minted Sports Ambassadors Gailene Windsor and Stella Boyea-Ashby — LOC members – also appealed to nationals to put their differences aside and give their full support to Vincy Heat in the interest of nationhood.
“We, as Vincentians, have to learn to separate politics from country,” said Windsor, a former national netball star, who played under Boyea-Ashby’s captaincy. “It’s about us. We’re putting our country on the map, and we need the support.”
“I’m not a pessimist,” said Boyea-Ashby, seated at the head table with Windsor, other LOC members, two members of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation (SVGFF), three Vincy Heat players and U.S. Counsel General Selmon Walters.
“We’re going to come out and give our support,” added Boyea-Ashby, who captained the national netball teams for 14 years. “Forget everything else and focus on the love of country.”
Dominique Stowe, event coordinator and SVGFF representative, apologized for the late release of most Vincy Heat players from their respective clubs in Guyana; Antigua and Barbuda; Seattle, Washington and England.
He said, however, that most players were expected to travel to Barbados on Monday to obtain visas at the U.S. Embassy before heading to the U.S.
Three U.S.-based players — Seniard Bowens, Million Prescott and Oalex Anderson — were present at the press conference and “Meet and Greet”.
“I’ll like to thank the New York Committee,” Stowe said. “Just continue to put all hands on deck and make this a success. Without the fans, this will not be possible. Hope to see many of you in St. Louis come Nov. 13.”
Earl “Caba” Bennett, SVGFF public relations officer, said it will be the nation’s seventh World Cup campaign, starting in 1992, and the fifth time that the team has reached the semifinal stage.
“This is enough to make us proud,” the told the press conference, attended by community advocates and supporters, disclosing that the current World Cup campaign will cost in the region of EC$1.5m (US$1=EC$ 2.7). “Jamaica [has] just beaten America in their own backyard, so we’re confident.
“I want to invoke the spirit of Chatoyer [Paramount Carib Chief and national hero] into the team,” he added. “Vincy Heat [is] – hard to beat. Let’s go to Russia 2018.”
In his Independence Message on Independence Day, Oct. 27, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said his administration is “committed to providing direct financial and other support to Vincy Heat in its football World Cup Campaign.
“I am personally involved in this,” he said, adding that he has been holding discussions on the matter with SVGFF president Venold Coombs.
Walters told the press conference that “the Road to Russian 2018” is “a proud moment for the small multi-island state of about 110,000 people, compared to the U.S. “of millions.”
“What a joy it’ll be if we can beat them or hold them to a 1-all draw,” he said. “I really want to thank those of us out here [in the Diaspora] to support the team. Let’s get the SVG team over to Russia. The journey has just begun.”
“On behalf of the team, we’re going to give our all,” Anderson said. “We’re going to fight to the end. It’s a dream come true for this team.”
“We’re going to win the game as a team,” intoned Prescott, with Bowens agreeing.
He said: “This game in the U.S. is a big opportunity. We’re going to go out there and fight and make it to the end.”
Judith “Baffy” Cuffy, a former national netball star and public relations officer of the United Vincie Cultural Group of Brooklyn (UVCGB), presented the players with a box of 30 T-shirts for the game.
UVCGB president Dr. Roxie Irish, also a former national netball star, told Caribbean Life that her group has donated US$1,000 to the LOC for Vincy Heat’s campaign.
“I will love to hear there was an upset,” she said. “A small island came and beat the USA. We need the support.”
Sports organizers and community advocates Joanne Legair, James Cordice and Kenlyn “Shortmus” John are organizing busloads of Vincentians to attend the Nov. 13 match.
The buses will leave Brooklyn the day before, making stops in Philadelphia and Maryland, according to Legair, chairperson of the Sports and Culture Committee of the Brooklyn-based umbrella Vincentian group, Council of St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Organizations, U.S.A.. Inc. (COSAGO).
Legair said the trip is endorsed by the LOC and SVGFF, adding that “all proceeds will be handed over to them.”