Belize
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Belizean female footballers to visit Princeton

by Kristen Ku

BELIZE CITY, Wed. June 21, 2023

Five female footballers from Belize’s national under-18 women’s team will be participants in the first U.S. Visitor Sports Program to be held at Princeton University in New Jersey. This initiative is designed to develop leadership skills in young athletes, while promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in sports.

A send-off ceremony, co-hosted by the U.S. Embassy and the Football Federation of Belize, was held for the five local footballers—Shamika Lambey, Carol Avila, Chelsea Chuc, Nigelli Myers, and Elva Nunez — on Tuesday, June 20, in Belmopan.

Sergio Chuc, the president of the Football Federation of Belize (FFB), remarked during the ceremony, “We look at you as the future leader … You will go out there and improve your football skill, but most importantly your leadership skills; because, just as we gave Ms. Centeno the opportunity to educate herself through football, you guys will be next in line.”

(Centeno, who has been an instrumental figure in the development of Belizean women’s football, was recently appointed as the Director of the National Sports Council.)

Centeno, who is the former national team coach, will accompany the young women on their trip, and in an interview with her, she highlighted her commitment to empowering women.

“I believe they are not the only ones happy; I will also be happy because I will be able to also enjoy this journey with them,” said Centeno. “For me, empowering women is the number one priority, so it is something big for us,” she said.

Former Olympian gymnast and current U.S. Ambassador to Belize, Michelle Kwan, praised the program as a perfect blend of sports and diplomacy, which she termed as “sports diplomacy at its best.”

“I think it is an incredible program,” Kwan affirmed. “This is not only for the development of being great athletes, but also to develop their leadership skills. They will return back to Belize empowered and shape who they are in their lives.”

Sports Minister, Hon. Rodwell Ferguson also affirmed the program’s potential to strengthen the country’s sports scene.

“I feel very elated, because I feel sports in this country has been on a down low, and I am hopeful with myself and the Department of Sports that we can make some kind of improvement,” Ferguson said.