Belize’s National Female Under-17 Football Team returned home today from Bradenton, Florida, where they participated in the CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 Championship. While they were defeated in their first match, these strong female athletes triumphed over the next two teams. We met them at the PGIA where we caught up with Team Captain Shendra Casimiro; goalkeeper, Jaleeny Belisle and midfielder, Khalydia (ka-li-dee-ya) Velasquez who scored the goals.
Khalydia Velasquez, Midfielder, U17 National Football Team: “I feel good about it. I just work hard to score and to make my team proud, to make the country proud and everybody else.
Reporter: Okay so when they passed you the ball what were you thinking when you were running toward the goal ?
Khalydia Velasquez, Midfielder, U17 National Football Team: “I just put my mind to it and said I could score the goal.”
Reporter: And in the second one how did that play out ?
Khalydia Velasquez, Midfielder, U17 National Football Team: “It was hard but I got that done for my team and everybody else. I feel good about it, they support me and I know everybody is proud.”
Jayleeny Belisle, Goalkeeper, U17 National Football Team: “It felt good. Like it was a good experience with me and my team. The first game we lost because of nervousness but the second game we managed to come back and won them so we had a lot of confidence and I’m so proud of my team because we worked together hard.”
Reporter: You know you have a very important position in the team, the goal keeper, how did you manage ?
Jayleeny Belisle, Goalkeeper, U17 National Football Team: “Well it wasn’t an easy job. You really have to pay attention to the ball, how it is coming and I just tried to not let any balls in but some went in, the ones we lost but I managed to take out a lot of balls. They could have scored us a lot but I tried my best to not let any past me.”
Reporter: You had to be on your toes watching everything.
Jayleeny Belisle, Goalkeeper, U17 National Football Team: “Yes sir. It’s a really long process of training to be a goal keeper, it’s not easy at all but I tried to do my best and I know I can do whatever it takes to stay in that position.”
Reporter: Do you feel proud ?
Jayleeny Belisle, Goalkeeper, U17 National Football Team: “Yes sir I’m proud and I know that everyone is proud of me , of what I did out there in Miami.”
Shendra Casimiro, Team Captain, U17 National Football Team: “It was good because we got to show Belize that we have talent. That Belizean children have talent.”
Reporter: So when your team first lost the first match how did you motivate your team ?
Shendra Casimiro, Team Captain, U17 National Football Team: “Just made them stay positive, do what they normally do, execute the plan and that’s it.”
Reporter: How do you keep them together as a team, unified ?
Shendra Casimiro, Team Captain, U17 National Football Team: “Well we come together, play songs, dance and sing and enjoy ourselves and not worry about the loss that we did and we focused on the next game.”
Reporter: And then in the other game you guys won, how did it feel then ?
Shendra Casimiro, Team Captain, U17 National Football Team: “It felt good because we wanted to show Belize that we can do it.”
Their coach Iris Centeno explained that one of the key components to the team’s success was for them to feel confident and comfortable.
Iris Centeno, Coach, U17 National Football Team: “Honestly it was very difficult. Even for me as a coach you know sometimes you get emotional and you get attached to certain things when it comes to the game it was very difficult for all of us but we knew that we had talent, we had skills, we had heart so we just focused on that and we told the girls you know what we already lost we can’t allow failure to determine our direction, we need to give our country something to believe in, something to be happy about so we said let’s fight for the other games, let’s play them with you hearts. I know you girls were nervous because stage fright is what affected us in the first game. We dominated three of the games but we couldn’t finish. So we have a lot of work to do. We’re going to focus on that and also exposure because that’s what actually affected us the most; anxiety and nerves.”
Reporter: And then the following games you guys won. Did anything change in terms of strategy ?
Iris Centeno, Coach, U17 National Football Team: “Yeah definitely. What happened is we had certain players that until we went there we realized that they were nervous and anxious and they were not playing the way we’re used to seeing them play so we had to arrange the team differently, do certain changes like we couldn’t start the first eleven that maybe we consider here in Belize that was the strongest we had to change other players because sometimes anxiety and nerves does change the way players play so we had to change that. And then what we did before the match we went into our work out sessions and we had the girls targeting the goal and going forward because although we dominated we know we needed the goals so we told the girls we need to score it doesn’t matter if we have 90% of the game and we’re gonna lose so we had to focus on that.”
Belize defeated Barbados two to one and Saint Kitts and Nevis, one-nil.