Comprised of 700 islands and more than 2,400 cays scattered across more than 100,000 square miles of Atlantic Ocean, The Bahamas, with its pristine coastline and stellar beaches, is a perfect destination for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. The Bahamas, a parlimentary democracy, peacefully gained its independence from Great Britain in 1973, and proudly remains a member of the British Commonwealth with Queen Elizabeth II as the head of state.
Christopher Columbus, the earliest European visitor, made his first landfall in the New World on the Bahamian island of San Salvador in 1492. Although inhabited since 400 AD, Columbus assumed he had “discovered” the islands, and referred to them as the islands of the baja mar (shallow sea), henceforth known as The Bahamas.
With its close proximity to major shipping lanes and the islands’ jagged geography ideal for hiding treasure, The Bahamas had been a popular hideout for many famous privateers and pirates including Blackbeard and Calico Jack. There are even rumours that buried treasure exists in The Bahamas to this day.
Nassau, The Bahamas’ largest city and also its capital, is roughly 180 miles off the coast of Florida, making it an ideal tourist destination. The Bahamas are not just an island getaway for Americans, as more than 6,000,000 tourists from all over the world visit the islands annually. Nassau and Freeport are popular stops on Caribbean cruises as well.
Bahamas is home to a wide range of sports, with athletics taking the role as the national sport. Basketball is also a favourite among the islands, as is swimming. Sloop sailing is a traditional Bahamian sporting activity, though football has become more popular over the years.
The Bahamas Football Association (BFA) was founded in 1968 and became a Member Association of FIFA a year later. Headquartered in Nassau, the BFA oversees the New Providence Football League and the Grand Bahama Football League in addition to its national team and beach soccer programmes. The Bahamas’ youth football programmes are especially vibrant, including more than 3,500 children aged 4 to 17 playing at the recreational level.
The Bahamas have yet to find significant levels of success in international football, failing to advance in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying, but their passion for the beautiful game is evident. FIFA has also been helping to grow the game in the Bahamas with its GOAL programme. Most recently, $500,000 USD has been invested in 2014 to build a technical centre at Malcolm Park to provide adequate infrastructure for beach soccer and futsal.
Beach soccer has become quite the popular activity in The Bahamas in recent years. In 2013, The Bahamas hosted the CONCACAF Beach Soccer Championship with great success. Two years later, The Bahamas made an unprecedented run into the quarter-finals of the 2015 qualifying campaign.
With a chance to prove themselves to the rest of the world, The Bahamas National Beach Soccer Team are ready to welcome the 15 other sides to their islands in April 2017.
Facts and figures
Nassau is the country’s capital and most populous city, with nearly 250,000 inhabitants, which is roughly 70 per cent of the nation’s total population. English is the predominant language in the Bahamas.
Its currency is the Bahamian dollar, which is usually very close to on par with the United States dollar. The Bahamas’ largest industry is indeed tourism, though the islands have a strong banking industry as well. Seafood, unsurprisingly, is their biggest export. With tourism taking up such a strong role, events such as the 2017 Beach Soccer World Cup are vital to the economic health of the country.