Beach soccer, within weeks of its introduction by the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association (ABFA), has become a sensation with current and former national footballers alike.
More than 20 players turned out for the national team’s first official training session held at Castaways Beach on Thursday, each hoping for a spot on the final 12-member squad that will travel to El Salvador for the 2015 CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship, March 28-April 4.
Head coach Janiel Simon welcomed the participants’ enthusiasm.
“They feel like they can be a big part of this,” remarked Simon. “Beach soccer has just started and they are very excited about it. It is a sport in which you can have a lot of fun from the different aspects of the game like the bicycle kicks, the diving headers…knowing that it’s a shorter version with three periods. They are very happy about it, very happy about the fact that they can continue their careers in a different version of the game.”
Recently handed the managerial reins, Simon conceded he was at first intimidated by the idea of venturing into uncharted waters. The former senior national team goalkeeper, however, found new confidence thanks to attending an “informative” technical seminar conducted by CONCACAF last month in Miami.
“It’s not an easy job because you are going into a different aspect of the game that you really don’t have much knowledge about,” the 33-year-old said. “But after the workshop in Miami, the instructors there, the other coaches there, that worked along with me and the other participants in CONCACAF really did a good job. I understand a lot about the rules of the game and how to conduct a training session and how to get the guys ready so I am really confident.”
Twelve competitors, each of whom have represented Antigua & Barbuda at the senior level, have been named in a 23-player training squad. They are: Lloyd Jeremy, Tahari Lewis (goalkeeper) Ranjae Christian, Gason Gregory, Dave Carr, Karanja Mack, Odell Murray, Okeem Challenger, Lennox Julian, Elvis Thomas, Omarie Daniel and Kemoi Alexander.
The other members of the training squad are Mickey Josiah, Prince Walter (goalkeeper), Troy Dublin, Justin Pereira, Brent Parker, Deshawn Samuel, Brian Edwards, Dean George, Gershum Phillip, Paulus Martin and Jermaine Allen.