Bonaire: ‘Dream is to one day play in the Gold Cup’
Bonaire, at the national anthem ceremony before the game against Jamaica at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Curacao in a match for the Concacaf Nations League qualifiers on October 14, 2018.
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WILLEMSTAD, Curacao - Though it may be a tiny island in the south Caribbean, Bonaire has big dreams on the footballing front.

By any measure, Bonaire's football is still a work in progress, but its protagonists have found new hope in the Concacaf Nations League.

Having played two games so far in the qualifying tournament of the confederation's new all-encompassing competition structure, Bonaire is in football heaven, even as they lost both games.

The municipality of The Netherlands has lost 5-0 to the Dominican Republic away in its opening Concacaf Nations League game last month, and on Sunday night, went down 6-0 to Jamaica in at the Ergilio Hato Stadium in Curacao.

In its case, winning isn't everything. For Bonaire, having the chance to develop and grow through international exposure is priceless.

"The players are very happy for the opportunity to be playing in the Nations League, because before we did not have this opportunity.

"As you know, we have no professional players, and they all play inside Bonaire, so to be playing top-level football is a great gift to us, and all the other small countries of the region hoping to bring their football to the world," said Boanire Football Federation (BFF) president, Ludwig Balentin.

 The official, who is leading a revival of his island's football, said he speaks for everyone involved in the process to raise Bonaire's football when he trumpeted: "The dream is to one day play in the Gold Cup."

But to get there, Balentin admits, will take hard work, adding that the Nations League serves as a fillip in the pursuit of that dream.

 "My vision is to see us have the proper facilities. We have a stadium, but the field is very bad, but we are in discussion with the government to see how they can help us to improve our field," he told concacaf.com.

Balentin says his team is working at the grassroots to level across the board to position Bonaire football to one one realise its dream of raising its profile in context of Caribbean football, and the wider Concacaf.

"We are doing development programs with the U13s, U15s and the U17s... we would also like to put in an academy with the youths. We are also working hard to grow our women's program," he said.

Balentin underlined the importance lesson learnt coming out of Sunday's game against Jamaica.

 "The Nations League is very important to us, as you can see what chance would we have had before to play with a country like Jamaica which is the top team in the Caribbean and a country that has been to the World Cup and to back-to-back finals of the Concacaf Gold Cup.

"What I can tell you is that we learnt so much from our match against Jamaica, and we value the experience as we move forward," he ended.

At the moment, Bonaire sits in 29th position on the Nations League 34-team points standing. It  will next play the British Virgin Islands in Anguilla on November 16.