Guyana’s Gold Cup reality sealed with tears of joy
By Avenash Ramzan
Backed by a vociferous crowd of about 4,000, the Golden Jaguars, Guyana’s senior national men’s football team, pulled off their most significant victory in the history of local football on Saturday evening.
Guyanese responded to the ‘Wear Yellow’ call and they came out fully aware that a victory was the only result that would matter for the home side against Belize in the Concacaf Nations League.
A hard-fought 2-1 success over the visitors means Michael Johnson’s men, overcome with emotions, are heading to the Concacaf Gold Cup for the first time.
There were screams of contentment, tears of joy, high fives by men and women who were probably seeing each other for the first time, and of course an expression of gratitude to the unseen force.
It all came together after weeks of meticulous planning and sustained and structured training, and as Communications and Public Relations Officer of the Guyana Football Federation, Debra Francis, pointed out, “long days and short nights.”
The National Track and Field Centre at Leonora erupted 16 minutes into the match when Neil Danns, sporting #16 on his back, tucked in a penalty, beating the sprawling Belize captain and goalkeeper Woodrow West.
Kuylen Elroy Edwin would equalise nine minutes later for Belize, before Emery Welshman closed the game with a strike two minutes from half-time.
Both teams had opportunities to add to their tally, but both keepers, West and Akel Clarke of Guyana, rose to the occasion whenever they were challenged.
Head Coach Michael Johnson: “Without him, all things are not possible. I’m thankful for God, looking at a little man like me, putting me halfway across the world and allowing me to have this moment in time with this special group of players. I am privileged to have led not just Guyana’s football, but the country to their very first major tournament. But to God be the glory.”
Captain Samuel Cox: “It’s been a long time coming for this nation. Words can’t express how we’re feeling right now. Some of you saw me in the last game, and the campaign before when we fell short against Jamaica; we fell short against St. Vincent in the World Cup (Qualifier) campaign, but all of that passed and that has been made up for this feeling we’re experiencing right now. It’s something special that’s happening in this country and this is just the beginning.”
Guyana Football Federation president Wayne Forde: “We must recognise that this is a symbolic…and…I’m not very often lost for words, but a tremendous accomplishment for Guyana, first and foremost. When we go and play in the Gold Cup, there are probably 40 million people on this planet that would hear the name Guyana for the first time, and to me that is the point we need to emphasise.”