Canadians help Guyana to an unbeaten record in Under-20 soccer qualifier
August 12, 2019
Visiting her mother’s birth country for the first time is an experience that Aneesa O’Brien will never forget.
One of 15 Canadian-based soccer players representing Guyana last month in the Confederation of North, Central American & Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) Women’s Under-20 qualifier in the South American country, the Grade 12 student was the leading goalkeeper, conceding just one goal in four matches.
The Lady Jaguars shut out Bermuda, Antigua & Barbuda and St. Lucia by 2-0 margins and defeated Suriname 3-1 in their final game to top the group.
“I was happy to see where my mom grew up and overjoyed that our team played well and was unbeaten,” said O’Brien who played every game.
She dedicated the victory over St. Lucia to Ryan Phillips who succumbed to cancer on March 18, 2018.
“We went to elementary school and he was one of my best friends,” O’Brien said. “He would have been 16 on July 17 and during that entire week I was in Guyana, he was on my mind. He was so supportive of me in my soccer career and I decided that I was going to play that game for him.”
The FC Durham Academy representative made her debut for Guyana last year in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women’s Challenge Series in Trinidad.
“I was introduced to the program by my friend (Nailah Rowe is also a member of the Guyana team) and one of the coaches (Paul Beresford) came to see me play for my club,” the Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic High School student recalled.
Through FC Durham Academy, O’Brien – the daughter of Denise and Umar O’Brien – hopes to land a soccer scholarship in the United States.
O’Brien’s outstanding showing in Guyana impressed Coach Ivan Joseph.
“The experience playing in Trinidad certainly helped her,” said the Dalhousie University Vice-Provost for Student Affairs. “She is tall with good hands and really good feet. She does what we expect from a goalie at this level and that’s to make saves.”
Joseph, whose two year contract with the Guyana Soccer Federation ends in December, said the Lady Jaguars – whose ages range from 14 to 19 – exceeded expectations.
“We expected to finish in the top two even though this team hadn’t played together and the coaching staff didn’t have much time to work with them,” he said. “To have one goal scored against you and to be unbeaten, I think, is remarkable when those circumstances are taken into consideration.”
The next set of qualifiers takes place in February.