SUPPORT BUILDS FOR BENNA BOYSMonday 2nd April 2012
Signs that the village is coming together to support Antigua & Barbuda’s Benna Boys in their 2014 FIFA World Cup bid were evident Tuesday night at the launch of the campaign.
Leader of the Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan, who is on island as part of a Caribbean tour and who was the special guest of the prime minister, signaled his intention to donate US $5,000 to the cause.
Member of Parliament for St Peter Asot Michael, an ardent football supporter, said he would use whatever “persuasive powers” he has to raise much-needed funds. On Tuesday, his commitment was already clear by the fact he’d picked up the tab to outfit the team and management in oxford shirts sporting the newly-minted ABFA logo and khakis.
Music maestro Oungku told those gathered under the night sky at Sugar Ridge Resort that his contribution to the cause was Benna Mental, the theme song with an infectious rhythm. “I’m rich in music,” the Red Hott bandleader said, “and that’s my donation to the national effort.”
Intangibles came, meanwhile, in several ways, including an extended radio advertisement, featuring parliamentarians from both sides of the aisle, in a mock session presided over by Speaker of the House D Gisele Isaac. All endorsed the World Cup campaign and the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association, with Madam Speaker taking a vote to indicate support at the end, and saying, “I know the ayes have it.”
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, during his remarks, said government is committed to supporting the ABFA in the campaign, and he sought to rally all citizens and residents to do likewise.
“We are on board and we will work fully and closely to the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association,” Spencer said.
The prime minister acknowledged the harsh economic climate and the constraints on the public purse, but he said while “no final figure” has been decided, government would work closely with the ABFA to find “creative ways” to fund the campaign.
The ABFA has projected that it will take approximately $9 million to get through the second round of the semifinals of the qualifiers. This is the farthest Antigua & Barbuda has ever reached since the country began contesting for a spot at football’s ultimate championship in 1974.
ABFA General Secretary Gordon “Banks” Derrick said the majority of the money would go towards travel, accommodation, ground transportation and nutrition. Provisions for Antigua Barracuda FC, the professional outfit which is seen as indivisible from the national football team, have also been factored into the equation.
The Barracudas play in the United Soccer League. Their season opens on Friday, April 6, with a home game against Pittsburgh Riverhounds.
The Benna Boys will spring into World Cup Qualifiers action on June 8 against the United States in Tampa, Florida.
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