BVI lands historic win vs USVI on penalties, in ‘VI Classic II’ thriller

BVI Goalie2
Goalkeeper Frankie Beckles, withstood the USVI’s attack from regulation, through two extra times and penalty kicks, helping the BVI to a historic 4-2 penalty kicks victory.

By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway.

V.I. Classic II’ a one game winner takes all battle between the U.S. and British Virgin Islands’ senior men’s Football teams for the rights to advance to the FIFA World Cup Qualifying rounds at the A. O. Shirley Grounds on Tuesday, lived up to its billing and more.

The showdown came after a 1-1 draw on Friday in St. Croix.

Like two prized heavyweight fighters, they battled through halftime, 90+5 minutes of stoppage time, then two 15 minutes extra times, tied at 0-0. It came down to penalty kicks, where the BVI went up 3-1, then the USVI pulled it back to 3-2, before substituting Midfielder Azarni Callwood made it 4-2, ending the BVI’s 28-year World Cup Qualifying drought with its first victory and the first time ever advancing in its history.

“I told them. I told Mr. Rymer (Kye, Minister of Communications and Works) that I was going to win it for him,” Callwood told Island Sun Sports as Rymer acknowledged the conversation. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever felt in my life and I’ve felt a lot of things. This is the best. When I came on, my impact was to change the game, not long talking. It’s so crazy to think of how far we have come in a short time. We’re now in a group with Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Guatemala. Jamaica is coming here. We’re coming to fight. We aren’t coming to play.”

The USVI launched its attack early in the game, but BVI goalie Frankie Beckles blocked the shot.  BVI had its best shot at goal just before halftime, when Tyler Forbes attempted a header off a Justin Smith pass that went wide. The BVI came out attacking in the second half with Jerry Wiltshire’s header missing. On the next play, Luka Chalwell missed a one-on-one opportunity, then USVI Goalie Dylan Ramos, cut through the BVI’s defense to bat the ball away on the next play. The USVI missed several second half, stoppage time and extra time chances.

BVI coach Chris Kiwomya said there were all kinds of emotions in the game. The USVI played hard in the first 25 minutes, and they had to make adjustments.

“We had chances to win the game, so did they, but I think overall, it was an even hard battle contest,” he said. “The sending off changed the game a little bit, but we just couldn’t get over the line. It came down to penalties as I said it would do. It came down to substitutions as I said it would do, and thankfully, the Goalkeeper turned up for us and the penalty takers as well.”

Becoming the first BVI coach to win a World Cup Qualifying game since the territory began playing in 1996, means an “awful lot” to him, he said.   

“Since I came, I have loved the island. I love the people here, they shout out my name on the street sometimes, coach Chris, but also, it’s a lot of pressure,” he noted. “There were a lot of fans telling me, ‘we need to win,’ and I’m saying hopefully, we can. Now the players have done it, they can celebrate with family and friends. I feel truly blessed to be able to do that.”

Kavon “Troy” Caesar who has been Captain since 2011 and endured numerous years of losses, said he was lost for words.

“It’s a long time since I’ve represented the BVI and to be able to lead the team to victory today and create some history for the BVI, is just a wonderful feeling,” he said. “I just have to thank God for his blessings towards the team and the country.”

USVI Coach Gilberto “Giba” Damiano said he told his boys before the game started that they must do everything they can to play their style. It doesn’t matter if they score. It doesn’t matter the number of players they have on the field, the number BVI have on the field, they must play their game.

“It worked at times when we had the composure to move the ball around and there, at times when it was a bit difficult, because they made the first half difficult for us, pressing us a little higher and we really couldn’t play our best,” he said.

Damiano said they made halftime adjustments but unfortunately, Defender Quinn Farrell head butted BVI substitute William “Bill” Green in the 67th and drew a red card leaving 10 men on the field. 

“It becomes difficult in a World Cup qualifying game where you have one chance to try to win, it’s even more difficult when you lose a player. But the boys’ discipline and attitude kept them in the game,” he noted. “I believe we created more chances when we had a player down, and that was the game. We gave everything. We tried everything and congratulations to the BVI for the first time winning a World Cup Qualifier game and I wish them good luck.”