HAMILTON, Bermuda, CMC – Head coach Kyle Lightbourne has admitted he failed a COVID-19 test after a recent training camp in Florida, but has hit out at the island’s Chief Medical Officer for stopping him travelling to Orlando for Thursday night’s CONCACAF Group B World Cup qualifier which saw a weakened Bermuda humbled 5-1 by Canada.
Bermuda were sunk by a hat-trick from Cyle Larin and further goals from Richie Laryea and Theo Corbeanu, although Kane Crichlow, a 20-year-old midfielder who plays for English Championship club Watford, had given Bermuda a glimmer of hope with a 63rd minute goal on his senior debut when his side trailed 3-0.
Lightbourne, 52, who was forced to watch the match at home, conceded his Bermuda players endured a tough lesson at the Exploria Stadium against a team ranked 96 places above them by FIFA, technical director Maurice Lowe having been forced to take charge of the team.
It proved a tough watch for Lightbourne, who was not permitted to travel with the squad for the match despite returning a negative COVID-19 test, having tested positive during a day 10 test a week ago. To compound matters, a number of the squad – including US-based winger Zeiko Lewis – returned inconclusive results before the match, resulting in Bermuda having to name an even more weakened starting XI and reduced substitutes’ bench. Lightbourne, who became the first high-profile Bermudian to admit to failing a COVID-19 test, told the Royal Gazette newspaper that he contracted the potentially deadly disease this month, but did not experience any symptoms during his recovery.
Lightbourne’s pent-up frustration turned to fury when it was ruled that he could not travel to Florida ahead of the Canada game.
His frustrations were largely directed at Dr Ayo Oyinloye, Bermuda’s Chief Medical Officer (CMO), whom he has accused of having a personal vendetta against him and football.
“The CMO has a lot to answer for,” said the former Coventry City striker. “From him came the decision to change the Aruba match from Bermuda to the US.”
That decision, announced to the media 11 days ago, came after reports that members of the Bermuda team that took part in the training camp in Florida, tested positive on or before their return to the island on March 8. The Gazette said it understood three players tested positive and will no part during this international break.
“I feel fine – no symptoms. I’m just totally frustrated with the protocols and the enforcement of them,” said Lightbourne.
“I have had a total of seven tests, and tested positive on my fifth one. The next two were negative.”
“The CMO has denied three people the chance of representing their country in the biggest game of their lives, and the biggest game coaching of my life,” Lightbourne said.
Dr Oyinloye was not immediately available for comment.
Bermuda’s most experienced player, Bristol City striker Nahki Wells, had already been ruled out because of FIFA travel restrictions, while former captain Reggie Lambe missed out after being injured in a motorcycle accident.
Lightbourne, who has now been cleared to fly to Florida on Saturday ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Aruba in Bradenton, said: “We’ve suffered a tough loss but we need to turn things around quickly and do better in our next match.
“We’re not expecting as hard a match as we faced against Canada, and so it is up to us to move on and perform better. We have to keep fighting.”