By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
When the BVI starts play in their 2018 FIFA World Cup preliminary qualifying matches next month against Dominica, they won’t be having a home game. Work being done at the A.O. Shirley Recreation Grounds is still ongoing therefore, the team will have to play both legs in Dominica in what BVI Football Association president Andy Bickerton calls a ‘significant lost opportunity.’
Instead, FIFA officials who were to be in the territory this week to inspect the field have cancelled their trip.
Last month then the pairings was announced, Bickerton said it was good news because they felt that they could be competitive against Dominica. He said if they were to win both games, they would face Canada in the next round.
“For us as a small country to be drawn against a team like Canada, would be a fantastic opportunity for our players and also the exposure of the British Virgin Islands,” he reasoned. “Unfortunately for us, one of the challenges we face is that the A. O. Shirley Grounds is unavailable. I think it was in October last year, the surface was taken off the ground and we were told it would be ready for January. FIFA has already contacted us to come down and inspect the field and they were expecting to come down the first week in February. Unfortunately, what it means, is that we are not going to be able to play Dominica here in the BVI because we do not have a facility we can use.”
Bickerton said it’s a big disadvantage for his organization and something national Coach Avon Williams is disappointed as is everyone else. He said this development means they’ll now have to play both games in Dominica which he called ‘unfortunate.’
“Particularly with the opportunity if we were to win that (series) just think of playing Canada home and away,” he stated. “Just think about having Canada down here and the number of people that would draw to the game—not only the BVI bout around the Caribbean, Canadian dignitaries coming down for that because it’s a World Cup game—it really is a significant lost opportunity.”
The BVI will face Dominica during the last week in March. Should they be successful, Bickerton said the Canada game would be during the last week in June.
“We would hope since the field is not going to be ready for inspections in February, lets keep our fingers crossed it’s ready in the last week in June, so if we are successful in Dominica, we can play a game at home,” he stated. “This is a significant advantage otherwise, we’ll have to play two games up in Canada.”