I suppose it could have started and finished last Friday night around 21.20 hours when, in the first minute of additional time, Atiba Hutchinson scored the third goal for Canada. Three nil to Canada in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification first leg.
Rose and I had watched the game – mostly surrounded by passionate – and at times extremely noisy – supporters at Carlo & Ernie’s Runway Bar & Grill. Prior to kick-off we felt the hope and anticipation. We believed in the team.
We were, therefore, extremely proud when the draw was made around the end of July and we were asked by friends of ours if we wanted to join a group of them to go to Belmopan to watch the second game of the two leg qualifier against Canada. And of course , having been on the last trip to Belmopan to support the Jaguars, we wanted to go.
When the third and final goal went in last Friday though I half expected the enthusiasm to make the trip to wane. But no, the belief in the team, the Jaguars, was undiminished. Of course we were still going to make the trip. All of us still wanted to be there to cheer the team, the country on.
So on Tuesday morning at around 09.00 hours after dropping Ziggy off at Pampered Paws (we were going to experience something different so why shouldn’t he)
Ziggy looking forward to his bit of pampering
and assembled on the dock at Ramon’s Village
for the first part of our journey. The boat trip to Belize City.
“C’mon, you know you want one”.
Three Belikins later we moored at the Ramada Belize City Princess Hotel, loaded our bags on the two busses waiting for us and set off on the next stage of our adventure. We were headed to Banana Bank Lodge.
After a Belikin (it is the national drink after all) fuelled journey we unloaded our bags, checked in
and went to our rooms (Rose and I had been assigned the Caracol room).
Exquisite use of stained glass in the bathroom .
After quickly unpacking and tidying ourselves up it was time for lunch
at Cafe Carolina.
And then it was time to tour the expansive – and extremely lush – grounds.
Meandering the verdant paths.
Chilling and savouring the beauty of the surroundings at one of the many conveniently located ‘resting’ spots.
Watching the free roaming horses (they have around ninety).
And then to the aviary.
And then down to take a look at the Belize River.
The pleasure of catching sight of howler monkeys.
And, saving the best until last, we then got to see
Tika Too. Impressive and beautiful isn’t she.
With the tour of the grounds complete (well actually you could probably spend days touring the grounds) it was time for the pool.
Jaymon, the youngest of the travelling fans.
Fun over it was time for the serious stuff. Take the bus
and head to FFB Stadium. I had a very important ticket to use!
There was the important matter of a team talk though (oh, and the opportunity for a few more Belikins) so we stopped off at Scotchies where we discussed tactics. Well, at least I think that’s what we were talking about. One thing we all agreed on was that the Jaguars needed to come out firing on all cylinders. Attack was the name of the game!
The teams came out. The National Anthems were played
and the game began with Belize doing what we all wanted. They attacked. And the pressure paid off in the twenty-first minute when Deon McCaulay slotted one in. One nil to Belize and the crowd (Rose and I included) went wild.
The Jaguars continued to attack but just couldn’t get a second goal and just before half-time Will Johnson for Canada managed to find the net.
Such a crushing blow could have deflated the supporters but it didn’t, it spurred us on and when the boys from Belize entered the field for the second half the noise levels increased. The Mexican Waves began. Hope was renewed.
Now the Jaguars may not be as experienced as their opponents. They don’t enjoy the same level of backing and facilities but they made up for this with boundless levels of energy and unbridled passion.
They had chances to win the game but the Canadian goalkeeper – perhaps playing the game of his life- thwarted them with last gasp saves.
The game ended a draw. Belize had failed to win. But was that really the case? To my mind they won the admiration of all of us that were privileged to be there or to watch them on TV. They tried hard. They played with passion and determination. They ran until the final whistle blew. They did Belize proud. It was a sweet dream that they just couldn’t pull off but deservedly so the team was applauded as they left the pitch.
I’m fortunate to have attended some great football games which will remain in my memory for ever. This game that Belize played against Canada joins this illustrious line up.
We left the ground happy. Belize had lost but we were not downhearted. Happy with the spirit they had shown. There was only one thing to do. Celebrate. So we headed off to the E & L Sports Bar. Well we just had to, didn’t we!
Midnight came and it was time to head back to Banana Bank Lodge. It had been a long and exciting day.
Refreshed after a good nights sleep we assembled the next morning and the conversation was all about the game. It probably will be for a long time to come. You know the kind of thing ” I was there when Belize nearly (should have) beat Canada”. And we were there, I’m really proud and pleased to say.
Breakfast over we had time for another walk around the grounds and then it was time to take the bus back to Belize City and lunch at the Club Calypso Seafood Restaurant .
Lunch over and time to head to Caye Caulker. A tremendous way to finish off our trip.
Rolando , our boat Captain, getting us there safely
Balde demonstrating his skill at drinking in a bumpy boat
and keeping his cap in place
the Lazy Lizard in sight so time for Ricky to get ready to secure the boat at our mooring spot
and time for a well earned rest
No, we haven’t shrunk!
and an ice cream.
Too soon it was time to head back to the Lazy Lizard
with an ice cream for Jaymon so we could tempt him from the water.
“Yes, it’s for you Jaymon”.
Time for one last Belikin (OK, OK it was two. Or was it three???) before heading back to Ambergris Caye.
A memorable time with a great bunch of people who allowed us to share their passion and pride. And, of course, their friendship.
The headline for today’s edition is based on the single released in 1969 by Jethro Tull which reached number one on the UK Singles Chart and number twenty on the US Billboard Hot 100.