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SANTA CLARA, California – The 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup is one that won’t ever be forgotten by Saint Kitts and Nevis. The Sugar Boyz qualified for the Prelims as winners from their group in League C of the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League and then promptly eliminated Curacao and French Guiana to reach the Gold Cup group stage.

It is an enormous achievement for a nation whose population is less than the 60,000-plus fans that attended the team’s final Group A match against Jamaica on Sunday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. Midfielder Romaine Sawyers took a moment to reflect on what the experience of participating in a first-ever Gold Cup was like for him and his teammates.

“I think it’s a great marker for us as a country about how we’ve been growing as a country over the last couple of years. We’ve tried to inspire the youth of tomorrow to get to a Gold Cup and we’ve done it,” said Sawyers in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com following the team’s 5-0 defeat to Jamaica.

“I think everybody in the squad should be proud of themselves first and foremost about that. Obviously, the games in the group stage didn’t go as well as you would have liked. We had moments in all three games, but football is not about moments, it’s about 90 minutes and I think we’ve just got to grow and learn from this experience,” added Sawyers.

The 31-year-old ranks as one of the most experienced players on the squad and one of the most accomplished at club level, with a resume that boasts such big English clubs like West Bromwich Albion, Stoke City, and now currently in the English Championship at Welsh club Cardiff City. Sawyers has tried to impart his wisdom to the younger players during this process while keeping spirits high.

“The biggest thing is encouragement, always do it with a smile on your face. But first and foremost, you have to work hard, everybody’s got to believe in the work. You have to keep pushing yourself and leaving it all on the pitch. You’re going to make mistakes, you’re going to be technically off sometimes, we’re going to be tactically off sometimes, and there are a lot of good players in this tournament. But as long as you have the right discipline and mentality to work hard, I think that’s what gets us through games,” said Sawyers.

Having been part of the Saint Kitts and Nevis Senior Men’s National Team since 2012, Sawyers has witnessed the strides made by the program in the last decade, making this appearance in the Gold Cup on such a big stage all the sweeter.

Wearing the Saint Kitts and Nevis jersey and going up against the top teams in the Concacaf region has been indescribable. “I don’t think I can put it into words. Our pool is very small. I think I can probably speak on behalf of everyone back home that they will proud of the boys that have been here. There are a lot of people that probably didn’t even know Saint Kitts and Nevis existed, and now you’ve got Saint Kitts and Nevis on the map. We’re doing it in football. Football is the biggest sport worldwide, so to go and step out in this jersey and represent not only us as a team but us as a whole country and federation is phenomenal.”

Sawyers also believes that the Gold Cup has been an invaluable platform for Saint Kitts and Nevis’ younger players who had the opportunity to showcase themselves and potentially put themselves on the radar to move to bigger clubs to further develop their careers.

“There are young players in the squad that have had a taste and with a bit more experience and a bit more game understanding, they can go and shine on this level. This is a great platform. I think our winning would have been unrealistic going into the tournament, but if we just get one or two players that are recognized for different reasons, whether it’s a trial here in America or somewhere else, I think that’s where we get our little wins,” concluded Sawyers.