1 Jun 2017

Bermuda gets first Premier League player in 14 years

8:42 pm on 1 June 2017

First Person - They are not talking America's Cup at my bus stop on Middle Road, in Devonshire Parish in Bermuda.

Bermudan Nahki Wells (far right) plays as a forward for the Huddersfield Town football team.

Bermudan Nahki Wells, far right, plays as a forward for the Huddersfield Town football team. Photo: AFP

"You watchin' the game," asked the two-metre-tall guy, wearing a Huddersfield Town soccer scarf.

Even in football-crazy Bermuda, why was everyone waiting for the Number 3 bus talking about that day's second-division clash in London, between Huddersfield Town and Reading?

Surely the stunning admission the previous evening, that umpires had admitted a mistake in penalising Artemis and gifting a race to Team New Zealand, had gripped the island host of the 35th America's Cup?

'The game', to be televised at 11am, would pitch the winner into the English Premier League, and if it was Huddersfield Town, Bermuda's Nahki Wells would be the island's first Premier League player for 14 years.

The tall guy was his uncle. Cars tooted and people shouted encouragement to him as they passed our small group at the stone bus shelter by Belvin's corner store. Everyone, it seemed, knew Well's uncle and his anxious hours ahead.

"I told my boss, I'm watchin' the game. He said, 'why aren't you interested in the America's Cup'," he told another regular.

"I'm not interested in the America's Cup, my sports are athletics, football and cricket," chipped in another.

The next morning Nahki's uncle was hugely animated, stepping off the footpath to wave at tooting cars driving past.

Huddersfield Town had won; Nahki Wells had landed the third penalty in the shoot-out that followed a goalless game. At 4-3, Wells was in the big league.

"His mama was cryin', she was really cryin'," said the same black woman Well's uncle had been talking to yesterday.

And then they mentioned the Cup.

"I bet the Royal Gazette [Bermuda's only daily paper] has the America's Cup on the front page, and not the kid," she grumbled.

"They always got the America's Cup on the front page."

It was time to confess. As the only white guy at the bus stop, and with an RNZ T-shirt and a day pack, I looked a bit conspicuous, and I'd had these conversations before in Bermuda. A lot of people, mostly black, resent the Cup.

"I have to admit that I'm here for the America's Cup, but I get that a lot of people don't like the money spent on it," I offered lamely.

"That's right," she said quietly but with feeling, and laughed.

They politely side-stepped the Cup, and returned to talking about Nahki Wells.

She was wrong about the Royal Gazette though - an America's Cup "media partner".

"WELLS BREAKS INTO THE BIG TIME", the front page declared. The 26-year-old footballer held the trophy aloft in the photograph.

"There's another Bermudian in the Premier League, and that means everything to me," Wells told the paper's reporter, who had travelled to Wembley Stadium for the game

"Umpire admits Blunder", a small brief on the bottom of the front page said. "Full Story in Sport Pages 29-36."

I wondered if this was the 'two Bermudas' that the politicians here talk about.

My days are spent in the America's Cup bubble in a specially built village that could have beamed in from downtown San Francisco, or Auckland. I could be anywhere in the world.

The event's hosting rights were bought for up to $US77 million, by the One Bermuda Alliance (OBA) government. OBA is significantly backed by white voters, according to the latest Royal Gazette poll. About 93 percent of whites pledged their support.

The opposition Progressive Labour Party is largely supported by black Bermudians, of whom only 13 percent told the poll they would back the OBA.

I met PLP candidate Leroy Bean watching the Bermuda Day parade. His view on the Cup was clear.

"I believe there's a lot of things in Bermuda we can deal with other than allowing $72m to $100m for the America's Cup - social things, infrastructure," he said.

At the Middle Road bus shelter that morning, the America's Cup didn't exist. It was all about Bermuda's son Nahki Wells, and a game of footy in England.

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