By Neto Baptiste
A total of eight Antiguan players featured for Bethany College in Saturday’s Presidents’ Athletics College (PAC) Men’s Soccer Championship final, and helped the West Virginia school to a 3-1 triumph over the number two-seeded Franciscan Barons.
Centre back Sheldon Christian, midfielders Rokeba Cordice and Jehlani Lloyd, left back players Dequan Samuel and Jayzeba James along with right back players Jahzihno O’Garro and Malique Jarvis, and center back Michilo Reggis all turned out for the college during Saturday night’s historic triumph. It was Bethany’s first PAC Championship in 20 years. All the players had been awarded scholarships through the Free Kick Foundation.
Christian, who assisted on the second goal for Bethany, said he has seen significant improvement in his game, adding that having not played for the first year due to the Covid-19 pandemic also helped him to balance both the academics and the football.
“The pandemic and so forth played a big part in helping me to go harder at my academics because I came here knowing that I had to take my schoolwork seriously, and also the football. But, as I said, that pandemic alone made it that there was no football to be played and it gave me a chance to focus more on my schoolwork. My biggest improvement has been my speed of play as well as my confidence in the game now,” he said.
Modou Faye scored in the 22nd minute from the penalty spot to put Bethany ahead before Valentin Ursino hit the back of the net in minute 24 off a Sheldon Christian assist.
Barons pulled a goal back in the 58th minute before Faye picked up a second goal to complete a brace in minute 78 and give Bethany the historic win.
Coach of the team and alumni Frankie Taal said he was always confident the team was capable of getting the job done.
“I told them before the game that they had a chance to write history and we had not been in this position for 20 years and so that team has written history. I told them that history doesn’t end, it doesn’t stop and that they have started a new chapter of Bethany football and they would continue to write this history and that even when they graduate the history would continue to be written. When we look back we will look at 2021 and look back at this group,” he said.
The coach, who hails from Gambia, believes that the extra time to prepare because of the pandemic, may have worked in his favour.
“I think the pandemic actually helped us out because the team is young and we were able to grow together even though we didn’t have any matches. I am a very technical coach and very tactical so during those months of the pandemic we talked a lot about tactics,” Taal said.
As this year’s tournament winner, Bethany will receive the conference’s automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Division III Championship.