Kwesi Mugisa, Staff Reporter
It has been officially confirmed that Jamaica will host the 12-nation Confederation of North, Central American Associations of Football (CONCACAF) Under-17 World Cup Qualifying Finals, after having a successful bid accepted by the regional body.
The tournament will be hosted in western Jamaica from February 12-28, with two of three facilities inspected by the federation's general secretary, Ted Howard, earlier this month expected to be used.
A decision on which of the grounds to be used, Jarrett Park, the New Catherine Hall Sporting Complex and the Trelawny Multi-purpose Stadium, will be made at a later date.
"I am understandably elated because the current administration is serious about youth development. We are determined to do more than just speak about it, hence our determination and persistence in securing this very important decision to host the qualifiers," president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), Captain Horace Burrell, told The Gleaner last night, shortly after he got confirmation.
The last and only time the country qualified for the Under-17 Youth World Cup Finals, which was held in 1999 in New Zealand, Jamaica hosted the tournament in western Jamaica.
According to Burrell, the JFF is determined to see history repeat itself.
"We intend to pull out all the stops to ensure that our team is well prepared for next February, which means that we will be looking to assemble them immediately," Burrell said.
"Even with our current financial plight, the JFF intends to do all within our power to expose this unit to international football - both at home and overseas. I will be hitting the phone lines immediately, to see if we can secure camps and possible practice games for these youngsters, which they will certainly need if they are to vie for a place in the World Cup."
Wendell Downswell has been appointed as head coach of the youth outfit, with Boys' Town assistant coach, Omar Edwards, expected to serve as his deputy.
Downswell, a former national coach, was head of the Under-20 youth team that won a silver medal at the Pan Am Games in 2007. Edwards was voted as the top student at the series of coaching clinics held at the University of Technology over the last couple of months.
The last time Jamaica hosted the final round of the Under-17 tournament at the National Stadium, the team, then led by the now-deceased David Hunt, fell just short of qualification in 2006.
"It will not be easy," said Burrell. "We will be up against teams that have many of their players in professional outfits, but we will be looking to give it our best shot."