Friday, February 23, 2018

...Caribbean Cup in Montego Bay

JAMAICA are taking no chance at missing out on another Concacaf Gold Cup, and have agreed to host the 2014 edition of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Caribbean Championship, a qualifier for the region’s top football competition. The tournament has also now been shifted to a FIFA date, giving Caribbean national teams the chance to have all their best professionals available.

Several of the regional football officials, including Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Capt Horace Burrell, confirmed that the biennial tournament is expected to be staged during the FIFA calendar window of November 10-18, and will be hosted in picturesque Montego Bay, Jamaica’s tourist capital.

Burrell, a Concacaf vice-president, said this year’s tournament will be special for numerous reasons, claiming that “based on the ingredients, this is shaping up to be the best ever”. As a qualifier for the Gold Cup, only the top-four finishers of the Caribbean Championship usually advance to Concacaf’s marquis event. But there’s a new format this time around.

“Firstly, the tournament will be held during the FIFA calendar window, which means that all eight finalists will have their top overseas players, which will ensure the tournament has star power, plus a high quality of play,” Burrell said. “A new and exciting element to the regional tournament is that the fifth-place finisher in Montego Bay will have a chance to qualify for the Gold Cup in a play-off with the fifth-place team from Central America.”

The 2012 edition was held in Antigua where Cuba beat Trinidad and Tobago in the final. Jamaica failed to advance out of their group and was not one of the four qualifiers for the 2013 Concacaf Gold Cup. Jamaica, who won the tournament the last time they hosted it in 2008, have a painful memory of the last championship held in Antigua and Barbuda in 2012.

As defending champions from Martinique in 2010, the Reggae Boyz, in the height of their World Cup qualifying campaign, gave a dismal showing and consequently failed to emerge from the group phase in 2012. Not progressing meant they squandered a great opportunity for invaluable match practice for the final stage of their Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign. This time around, as hosts, the Boyz are expected to finish in style, to avoid a repeat of the Antigua fiasco.

“I am still hurt by what we did in Antigua, and we can’t afford for that to happen and we are not in the Gold Cup...some people are yet to fathom the impact of not playing in the Gold Cup. I think it hurt our World Cup efforts, plus our FIFA ranking,” stated Burrell, who explained that once again Montego Bay, for its obvious advantages, was chosen as host city for the Caribbean Championship.

In recent times, as Montego Bay slowly establishes itself as the “football capital of Jamaica”, the tourist mecca hosted the Concacaf Men’s Under-17 Championship in 2011, where Jamaica qualified for the Mexico tournament, and last November it welcomed seven Concacaf countries for the Women’s Under-17 equivalent.

“The JFF decided on Montego Bay because of the support of Montegonians for football, plus the stadium is well-maintained and will cost less. “Also, Montego Bay, as a tourist destination, has its advantages from a business perspective. There are great hotels, they know how to receive and treat visitors, plus the international media will want to cover whatever happens in Montego Bay,” Burrell said.

Meanwhile, CFU general secretary Damien Hughes, in confirming the venue, gave reasons why Jamaica was granted hosting rights over other bidders.

“We selected Jamaica because we have confidence in the country to mobilise all the relevant stakeholders, the corporate aspect, plus they have the ability to motivate people to come out and support the games,” Hughes said. “Also, we are satisfied with the quality of the facilities, plus the CFU is of the view that Jamaica is well positioned to achieve the objectives,” he said.