The Bermuda’s under-15 girls team arrived home to a reception fitting of a championship-winning team, as blaring horns enlivened a usually quiet arrivals area at the airport.
The team are still basking in the glory of their Division Two title in the Concacaf Under-15 Girls’ Championship. Bermuda beat Grenada 2-1 in the final at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, on Sunday.
A motorcade took the players and team officials — on the back of an Island Construction truck — into St George’s and then to Hamilton, where they were greeted by David Burt, the Premier, government ministers and scores of proud Bermudians along the way.
Bermuda beat out 15 other teams in Division Two, advancing from group D with a perfect record to the semi-finals, where they defeated St Lucia 1-0.
Government officials, led by Lovitta Foggo, the Acting Minister of Social Development and Sport, were also at the airport to greet the team.
Danni Watson, who also led the under-17 team at their Concacaf Women’s Championship in Florida in June, thanked those who welcomed the team home.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “I love how Bermuda is starting to see that girls can play football. Bermuda girls are starting to put the island on the map.
“It’s really exciting to see all the support at the airport; it’s an amazing feeling.
“I can’t wait for the women’s [senior] tournament at the end of the month.
“All of our girls appreciate this, especially the girls who are here for the first time. To get this type of crowd is really motivating, as it shows we have the support. We did this for Bermuda, our country.”
Naquita Robinson, the Bermuda women’s senior coach, was disappointed to have missed the trip, although she welcomed the team home and travelled in the motorcade. Vance Brown took the head coach’s reins, with Zayna Foggo as his assistant.
“I was expected to travel with the team, however, my brother got married on the Wednesday, so family first,” Robinson said. “Preparation for this team was a bit easier because a lot of them played for the under-17s and we were preparing them for that tournament.
“Vance jumped right in there and got them going. He has done such a great job throughout the programme; Aaron Denkins as well. It is just a great moment for these young ladies. Bermuda has to keep supporting them, to come out when they play games.
“I’m always on the other side coming out with them so to be on this side waiting for them to come out is amazing.”
The acting sports minister said: “They secured the championship; they not only did themselves proud, they did Bermuda proud.
“This speaks volumes to their abilities and skills, the skills of the coaches, the Bermuda Football Association in general. We indeed have champions and as we said before, Bermuda girls rock!”
Brown praised his team for meeting the challenges in Florida. “We knew we had a chance to win it,” he said. “We placed heavy demands on the team and they came through.
“In the next tournament we will be get promoted to Division One where the bigger teams are, so we will have to prepare well. Their next tournament is at the under-17 level and I’m expecting them to do well.
“The average age of this team is 13 or 14. Out of the squad of 18, we have nine who can play in the next [under-15] tournament.”
Mark Wade, the BFA president, was also among the officials at the airport.
“We had a great reception with the under-17 girls when they did well, but this tops that tenfold,” Wade said.
“They did extremely well and deserve all the accolades they get. We want them to enjoy the occasion and then get back to work.”
The success of the team is timely with the second BFA Girls Youth League starting soon. Maurice Lowe, the BFA technical development director, said the players were great ambassadors for Bermuda.
“Whenever any team leaves Bermuda, we tell them to be on their best behaviour because they are representing themselves, their families, the BFA and all of Bermuda,” he said.
“We are very pleased with them and with the turnout here to celebrate them.
“As the coach said, we’re still ambitious, we want to have this feeling again.
“Not so long ago, our under-17 girls came back to a reception like this and we’re beginning to make it a habit. Now we want to continue the girls league and build that into a women’s league.”