Sports in Belize
Sports in Belize details the developing of sporting disciplines in Belize.
Sports has always been a major part of Belizean culture. While Belize has never been an international sporting power, the nation’s athletes have taken their discipline seriously.
Belize’s National Sports Council oversees sports in Belize, while the Olympic Committee oversees the country’s Olympic Games delegations.
Sports in Belize is plagued by a lack of finance, sporting facilities and little emphasis on sports as an integral part of national culture and pride. Nevertheless, sports continue to unify Belizeans on and off the field.
Track and Field
Track and Field in Belize is run by its Amateur Athletics Association. The main facility for track and field events in Belize is the Marion Jones Sports Complex (previously known as the National Stadium) on Princess Margaret Drive in Belize City and named after the famous track and field star of Belizean descent. Plans have been made to renovate the track and convert the stadium to an indoor one.
Athletics has sent a number of athletes to individual competitions in Central America and the Caribbean and has been represented at the Olympics, though not winning any medals.
Football has roots reaching back to mid century in amateur competitions, mostly held in Belize City. In 1991 Belize’s first (semi)professional league, the Belize Semiprofessional Football League, was formed with teams from all districts save Stann Creek and Toledo, who joined later. This league is now known as the Belize Premier Football League (BPFL). The overall governing body of football in Belize is the Football Federation of Belize (FFB) headed by Dr. Bertie Chimilio. While Belize has enjoyed some success at regional and club level, its international record is notoriously poor.
Softball’s governing body for male and females is the Softball Federation. It is most popular in Belize and Cayo Districts and is gaining a following in the South. After local tournaments are complete a national champion is crowned and the teams prepare for next season.
Softball has traditionally enjoyed the most success abroad for Belize. Female softball teams have routinely medalled in regional competitions in both Central America and the Caribbean and the males have begun to do the same.
Basketball probably has the biggest following in Belize after soccer. It is governed by the Belize Basketball Federation (BBF). Like football, basketball’s highest classification is semi-professional; the league (known as the Belize Basketball Association (BBA) was established in 1992). Matches are frequently held at the junior, senior amateur, high and primary school levels, and even the Mini tournament for little kids and Over-35 tournaments for retired players. There is a basketball court of some sort in every neighborhood and kids can be seen practicing regularly.
Belize has held regional championships in the Caribbean (1998) and Central America (2001) but has not been to the Olympics. A number of Belizeans, such as Nigel Miguel, Milt Palacio, Kenton Paulino and Charles Burgess, play or have played basketball at the college and NBA level in the United States. Paulino led the University of Texas to the 2005 Elite Eight; Burgess currently plays for Texas Tech. Palacio graduated from Colorado State and played for several NBA teams, most recently the Utah Jazz; Miguel hails from UCLA and briefly tried out for the New Jersey Nets in the 1980s.
Water Sports, Canoeing
The local association sponsors a number of races per year, including the La Ruta Maya Belize River Challenge, a 180 mile, four-day canoe race on the Belize River that starts in San Ignacio and ends in Belize City. The race occurs annually on Baron Bliss Day.
A small local tennis association holds frequent competitions for males and females, though it does not compete outside of Belize. Considered mainly to be a recreation for elites.
Cycling takes place year round on the nation’s highways. It is mainly amateur, but Belizeans have placed well regionally. The most famous race is the Holy Saturday Cross Country Cycling Classic, held during the Easter weekend since 1928. Other famous races include the KREM New Years’ Day Cycling Classic sponsored by KREM Radio, the National Road Championship, the Labor Day Classic and the World AIDS Day Classic held in honor of Alpheus Williams, former champion and victim of that disease.
Cricket is mainly established in the Belize Rural area, where local villages sponsor cricket teams. The national tournament is held in the Belize District from January to May. Belize’s national cricket team will play in Division Three of the ICC Americas Championship Bracket in 2008.
Boxing gained a niche in Belize in the 1930’s; weekend fight cards generally packed the premier boxing arena in Belize, Birds’ Isle. Prominent Belizean boxers include lightweight Ludwig Lightburn and welterweight Fitzroy Guisseppi, originally of Trinidad and Jamaica. Unfortunately, beginning in the mid-1980s boxing largely died out and only occasional amateur cards are now held.