Friday, 25 May 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
Antigua St John's - Students sent lots of love to the national Benna Boyz team as they completed their schools’ tour with visit to three schools yesterday.
The youth chanted the names of their favourite players, clapped, screamed, and shouted praise to the team set to leave the country for Florida.
The excitement was real and there is an obvious hype for the moment, which sees the national football team in the semis of the FIFA World Cup for the first time.
They visited three schools, including Bolans Primary, the "home" that striker Peter “Big Pete” Byers built when he was just a teenager.
Byers scored over 50 goals in his final year at Bolans before taking his talents to Sap and winning two Premier Division titles.
“It’s always a joy coming to this school (Bolans Primary) a place I scored 54 goals,” Byers told CARIBARENA.COM. “And it’s not just the football, but my son comes to this school as well."
He added, “From time to time I come back and let the little ones know that I came to this school and it’s always a good feeling.”
If the Benna Boys are to get to Rio for the 2014 FIFA finals, Byers will have to play at his best and score goals like he did when he was at Bolans.
He knows that it will not be easy taking on the likes of the United States, Jamaica, and Guatemala, but he is ready.
“I know it’s going to be difficult, but I am ready, and I know that the team is ready for the challenge ahead,” the striker said. “We all have to keep doing the hard work of getting ready, and I have to continue to work on scoring goals. The team will be depending on me so I have to practice very hard.”
The tour started at Ottos Comprehensive early in the morning before moving to Jennings Secondary, then Bolans.
The team presented a football signed by all the players to each school they visited and acknowledged footballers at the schools.
At Jennings, the captain of the women's team took the ball on behalf of the school.
Many of the students also took the opportunity to grab individual autographs from players and management.
In the upcoming games, starting with the match at the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa against the US, defence is going to be crucial.
The man responsible for leading the defence, as well as the team on the field is Captain George “Sowa” Dublin from the Gray's Green community.
Dublin told CARIBARENA.COM that this opportunity to play in the semis of the FIFA World Cup is an extra special moment for Antigua & Barbuda.
“This is the second best ever moment for me,” Dublin said. “Having my son is the only thing that is better that the feeling I have now.”
The captain, who plays for Green Bay Hoppers in the national premier league, said visiting the schools had boosted the team’s confidence.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for us,” said the captain. “The students have been great, and just by watching the way they show their appreciation, it’s inspiring."
He added, “Once we band together, the guys here and the English based players I know, we will be okay.”
The Gray's Green community is known for its sports, and Dublin knows that a lot will be expected of him and the team, notwithstanding the opponents.
“I know that there are some people who believe that we may not go far,” he said. “But I’m from Green Bay, and that is a community that is proud and we always believe we can win.”
The team took pictures with students, chatted, and interacted with the youth.
Most understood the magnitude of the moment and were willing to show their support.
The team leaves for the IMG training facility in Sarasota, Florida before the US game on June 8.