A look back at this year’s ABCS tournament which finished on Saturday evening, with Suriname taking home their second title after overcoming hosts Curacao in the final…
First and foremost, the vast majority of people reading this won’t have the faintest idea what the ABCS Tournament is. So here is some background information: founded in 2010, it is an annual football tournament involving Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao and Suriname (hence ‘ABCS’). According to the President of the Suriname Football Federation, Louis Giskus, it was designed “to strengthen the relationship between the Dutch speaking countries in the Caribbean.” And, of course, strengthen the quality of football played across each country.
This year’s edition was held in Willemstad, Curacao (all matches played at Ergilio Hato Stadion) from 14 -16 November following Bonaire’s withdrawal from hosting earlier this year. The beautiful thing about the competition is that it’s always evenly poised, there is no clear favorite. In the debut year Suriname prevailed. Then in 2011 it was plucky Bonaire who took the title and last year, Aruba reigned victorious. Due to the small number of teams participating, the fixture system is pretty to the point. The first round is the semi-finals and the winner of each progresses to the final, with the losers locking horns in a third place match.
Manager: Roberto Gödeken
Final Position: Champions
On paper, Suriname were expected to win. However, given the unpredictability of previous editions, it would have been churlish to rule out the other three sides. They’re a team caught in a transitional period with a recently installed interim boss, Roberto Gödeken, at the helm. There was initial skepticism among the country’s supporters as five internationals in Emilio Limon, Albert Nibte, Romano Holtuin, Clay Dell Kohinor and Giovanni Alleyne were left out of the squad but the reinforcements that were called upon did their job. Having not played a competitive football match in just over a year (since 2012 Caribbean Cup qualification) it was anticipated that Suriname might look a little rusty. But ultimately they dug in deep and were crowned deserved winners.
Scrappy But Important Victory Over Bonaire
They faced difficult opposition in the shape of Bonaire, winners two years ago, in the semi-final. Suriname got off to a flying start after Bonaire were caught napping from a short corner and Galgyto Talea – plying his trade in the Hoofdklasse with SV Robinhood – slotted home from close range for a scrappy goal. It was the forward’s first goal on the international stage. Bonaire showcased their development as a team by refusing to accept defeat and they calved out several good opportunities on goal. But they failed to register that elusive equalizer and Dimitrie Apai made them pay with half-an-hour remaining. 2-0 to Suriname it finished.
Fluid Forward Line And More Conviction In Final
For Gödeken, he will have been pleased with efficiency of the semi-final result but the performance was lacking as there were gaps in the defence at times and they did well to escape without conceding. However, the Surinamese attack was fluid and there was plenty of width to their game. Goalkeeper Obrendo Huiswoud always looked to play it short and it was obvious that training practice drills were coming to the fore. In the Final, Vitorinio Pinas steadied himself to roll the ball into the net following a rebound off the crossbar and Virgil Najoe, a late call-up, completed a double to ensure Suriname of a 3-1 win and their second ABCS title. Their first title triumph came on Curacao soil, too.
Confidence Booster Heading Into Near Future
With this tournament success now under their belt, the Suriname Football Federation have some significant decisions to make. Gödeken is only temporarily in charge, it seems, and it will be interesting to see if he signs on for the foreseeable future or perhaps a hefty chunk of money will be spent in acquiring an even higher profile, well-known manager. With the Caribbean Cup on the horizon – the draw set to be made in December this year – Suriname will want to know where they stand in terms of management heading into a tournament like that. They struggled in qualification for last year’s Caribbean Cup and will be hoping to make amends in 2014. Winning competitions like this – albeit on a small scale – are key to boosting confidence levels and subsequently displays on the pitch.
Manager: Ludwig Alberto
Final Position: Runners-up
Curacao are now the only participating team to have not yet won the ABCS trophy, their closest effort coming back in 2010. But despite this, Ludwig Alberto’s men enjoyed a successful tournament both on and off the pitch. This is the second time that they have been named hosts and what a great job they have done. The Ergilio Hato Stadion proved a suitable venue and although stands weren’t packed with spectators, there was enough support present to cheer on the teams and create a positive atmosphere.
Made Easy Work Of Beating Aruba
Stallone Isenia played a pivotal role in Curacao’s semi-final feat as they dismantled a poor Aruban outfit. Just 31 minutes in and the striker had bagged himself two goals and it was game over. The first was a rather simply executed goal. The back-line of Aruba was caught flat-footed and all it took was one long ball over the top for the fleet-footed and alert Isenia to reach out a leg and poke the ball into the empty net.
Isenia’s second was handed on a plate to him as a corner was whipped in from the right, the Aruban goalkeeper Eric Abdul came racing out and produced a shoddy piece of goalkeeping. With relatively little pressure on him, he panicked and flimsily punched the ball to the Curacao striker to snap up and head in. Jarzinho Pieter, in between the sticks for the hosts, was called into action on several occasions in the second period but made some smart saves. In Suriname, they would face a much harder proposition….
Hosts Undone By Opposition Ruthlessness
It was a rematch of the 2010 Final: Curacao v Suriname. Curacao were on hosting duties then, too, but that game turned out to be a whole lot closer as penalties decided the outcome after a closely fought 2-2 draw in normal time. But there was still an air of optimism surrounding the Curacao camp after they’d just swept aside Aruba and they had played Suriname previously. The hosts displayed great spirit to score to make it 1-1 just before the half-time whistle. The midfield pressed high and reaped the rewards as a sloppy pass from one of the Surinamese midfielders gifted Curacao with a fantastic chance to break and who other than Isenia raced through to round the ‘keeper after a fine through ball. Ultimately, though, Suriname were more ruthless; they didn’t rue missed opportunities. Instead, they capitalized and Curacao were undone by their clinical nature. Nevertheless, it was a brave and encouraging performance for Alberto’s troops.
Youthful Squad Bodes Well For Future
Not too long ago I published something on two up-and-coming, prosperous youngsters from Curacao who impressed for the Under-20s. It seems youth is a prevalent factor in the senior setup, too, with eight of Curacao’s ABCS squad aged 21 or under. Just two players – Richenel Doran and Dutch-based Benjamin Martha – exceed 30. For such a comparatively small country, that is a remarkable achievement. Arguably the brightest young player in the mix is 19-year-old ADO Den Haag central midfielder Vidarrell Merencia. He featured in the Under-20 side that played so terrifically to qualify for the CONCACAF U-20 Championship earlier this year. Randel Winklaar, Quinton Christina and Nathan Martina are also vibrant, exciting prospects.
Special Mention For Tyrone Maria
It just wouldn’t be acceptable to close the curtain on Curacao’s profile without mentioning their 29-year-old bulldozer of a midfielder, Tyrone Maria (see below). Just for the sheer size of the man…
Manager: Rudsel Sint Jago
Final Position: Third-place
For an island with just over 17,000 inhabitants, Bonaire punched well above their weight and their valiant efforts warranted a bronze medal. Their progress as a football nation has been quite brilliant as they only became an associate member of CONCACAF and the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) in April earlier this year. A process which took two years to be finalized, Bonaire’s persistence was worthwhile as they start to seek participation in the likes of the Caribbean Cup and CONCACAF Gold Cup. On the evidence of their ABCS exertions they’re well on their way…
Unlucky Not To Win In First Round
Last year they also played Suriname in the semi-final but lost by a significantly bigger margin, 8-0. To be defeated by just the two goals is a mark of Bonaire’s improvement as they maintained good discipline and shape and were very unfortunate not to record a goal. Captain and leader Rolando Janzen, Ilfred Piar and substitute Giovanni Makaai all went close but slack defending turned out costly in the end. This tournament was more about gaining fitness and match sharpness than seriously mounting a title challenge.
Two Quick-Fire Strikes Secure Creditable Bronze Medal
Two second-half goals in two minutes presented Bonaire with a mightily impressive victory after they turned their third place match against Aruba on its head. With an hour gone things were looking bleak. 1-0 down, Bonaire were searching hard for that equalizer to give them a foothold in the match. Sint Jago (see above, right at top) brought on three fresh faces and it worked a treat as just moments later Ilfred Piar drew level. It didn’t take long to find the next goal – which proved to be decisive – an error in the Aruba back-line enabled SV Juventus frontman Suehendley Barzey to convert with aplomb and Bonaire had beat Aruba in normal time for only the second time in their history. An excellent comeback.
Attitude Changed…For The Better
Not only did Bonaire play attractive football but they also improved on their attitude. In 2010 in the third place clash against, ironically, Aruba, the game was abandoned because Bonaire’s players walked off the pitch after a disagreement over a penalty kick being given against them. It was an all-action scoreline of 3-3 before their protests. Nothing like that this time around…
Manager: Giovanni Franken
Final Position: Fourth-place
Winners in 2012, Aruba will feel bitterly disappointed to have ended up in last place. Like Suriname, they appointed a new manager in ex-Netherlands Antilles international Giovanni Franken before the competition’s start with the target of emulating their title success two years ago. However, that didn’t exactly go to plan. Franken was assisted in the dugout by Veron Alberts but evidently they failed to convey their message to the group as Aruba were abject in both ties…
Lack Of Firepower Leads To Inevitable Outcome
Two games, one goal. By any team’s standards that’s a dismal statistic. But sometimes shortage of goals is irrelevant if the defence can keep them out. In Aruba’s case, they made a total hash of keeping goals out. Too many defensive slip-ups, naivety from the goalkeeper Abdul and just no penetration when going forward led to an inevitable outcome. Then again, the Arubans have frequently struggled for goals. They’ve only managed 10 in eight ABCS fixtures. Maurice Escalona was the only Aruban player to get on the scoresheet (v Bonaire).
Video credit: Notisia360.
By Nathan Carr