Sport

Boyz soak up beauty, magic of Antiguan resort life

...team manager Simpson says players' off-field comfort lends itself to optimal performance

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Monday, November 18, 2019

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LONG BAY, Antigua — Fate can be a master of time and events.

And it was in one of kismet's deal of the hand that catapulted Jamaica's Reggae Boyz on a fairy tale experience in picturesque Antigua and Barbuda recently.

The Jamaica senior men's football team, who were in Antigua for their Concacaf Nations League game against the hosts on Friday — which the visitors won 2-0 — spent four magical nights at The Verandah Resort and Spa, purely by chance.

For the team originally booked their five-night stay in the Eastern Caribbean country at the Starfish Halcyon Cove Resort, but on checking in on Monday evening, the accommodation did not meet the standards.

So after protest by the players, who drove home their point by refusing to lace up their boots for training the following morning, the contingent decided to check out after one night.

On the ground administrators of the team, led by Team Manager Roy Simpson and head of delegation Barron “Barry” Watson, were forced into a frenzied search of alternative and suitable accommodations.

By the Internet and physical hunt, their search took them to the opposite end of the island's eastern coast.

And as they put it, the minute they stepped into the reception lounge of The Verandah, both Simpson and Watson knew that they had found the Boyz's paradise.

When the party followed shortly afterwards, the collective sigh of relief at arriving and stepping into this all-inclusive eden was hard to ignore.

On arrival, the group, which included this reporter, was greeted by The Verandah's lush gardens, charming cottages, winding pathways abuzz with the gentle hum of golf carts and Mother Nature's symphony as birds compete for the high notes.

The property's look and feel was immediately uplifting to the spirit as it was to the mind and soul.

If ever there was one, this is a piece of heaven on earth.

“I think if we had done our due diligence we would have been here at the get-go, but with that said, I think it is the kind of property that works with what we are trying to achieve in terms of the way it is laid out, with the proximity of all the essential service areas,” says Team Manager Simspon.

He noted that if players have peace of mind and comfortable in preparation for a game, then it is likely their performance will be at an optimum.

“As manager you want your players to be as comfortable as possible because when they go on to the pitch you don't want excuses, as you would want them to be giving 110 per cent all of the time, so it is important what we do off the field as it does impact what we do on the field.

“I think it was a good decision we made when we decided to relocate here, but from every bad comes good because we have seen is the forging of a long-term relationship with this hotel, The Verandah, because they understand what we are trying to achieve,” said the seasoned team official.

Simpson said he learnt that the resort — with its charm, appeal, convenient and modern facilities — has a growing reputation in hosting sporting teams, particularly those of football.

“I am made to understand that a lot of the football teams that come to Antigua, this is the property to use and it's obvious why because this property is set up to suit sporting teams, and especially football.

“I must say the amenities here are incredible, and I think going forward, these are the types of accommodations we need and must have at all times for our senior Reggae Boyz,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Like the players, coaches, executives, Simpson has been left awestruck by the resort's unspoiled beauty.

“This place is absolutely breathtaking… when you look at the cute town house-type accommodations and how that ties into the greenery, brings you so much closer to nature.

“Can you imagine being at a hotel and seeing bananas and plantain trees laden with fruits from you back and front porches, and to see various species of birds jumping around on your patio, and even coming into the room, and there are other wildlife that adds to it all, though I must confess that I am not into lizards that much, or any at all,” Simpson said, bursting into an uproarious laugh.

The food, the other guests and the staff get the proverbial thumbs up from the Boyz.

“…And the food, wow! Also, the kind of guests we were able to interact with, and a lot of the guests are coming out of Europe and I was able to meet supporters from Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United, you name it.

“And I must add how incredible the staff was. As you know, we came here on short notice and I must say I was impressed how the staff went into overdrive to put everything in place as per our requests, and that was excellent. And it was not like they were trying to impress us as first-time guests, because you get the impression that this is the culture here.

“So friendly and caring was the staff that you could be walking and there are people stopping to find out if you are okay and if there is anything they can get you. I remember we had scheduled a team meeting, and the hotel guests services people would be calling to see if everything was on schedule, if all the players have been assembled, and if not, they would go and get them on the golf carts to make sure everything fell in place and went well,” Simpson gushed.

The Boyz manager said based on the experience, he foresees a long-lasting relation with the resort.

“All in all, it was a great experience for us as managers, coaches, plus the players themselves… and also meeting the owner, Mr Barrett, was another highlight and how accommodating and friendly he was, and I can only see a strong relationship forming going forward,” Simpson ended.

Meanwhile, principal of Elite Island Resorts, operators of The Verandah, Rob Barrett, who entered the hospitality business in Jamaica back in the 1960s, said he was honoured to host the Reggae Boyz.

“We are excited to be hosting the Jamaican football team, so we are just glad they are here. What I have observed from a distance is that they are fine-looking, well-behaved group of professionals and I think that is a real compliment to Jamaica to have such a team,” said the veteran hotelier.

Barrett, whose vigour, quips and mental sharpness betray his 80 years, says while The Verandah caters to a wide clientele, sporting groups have come to love its usefulness.

“We probably have three or four sporting teams coming through here each year, the cricket players love to stay with us, we have had other football teams, we have had netball teams, but in the end these are guests same as any guest… and our motto is we are all equal and deserve the same treatment,” he said as he had breakfast at the buffet restaurant with guests.

“We try to provide good service all around, but maybe not always excellent service, but good service with a smile, and people look for value and as long as you can provide good value, people are going to keep coming back, they are going to recommend you and we don't want anyone to feel unwelcome and that's our hallmark,” Barrett added.


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