Downswell says financial backing necessary for U17 World Cup qualification
Marc Stamp, Gleaner Writer
Jamaica's Under-17 men's football team head coach, Wendell Downswell, said corporate support is needed in order to qualify the nation for a historic back-to-back FIFA World Cup appearance later this year in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
"We want to qualify the team for back-to-back World Cups, but for that to happen corporate Jamaica needs to support the programme," said Downswell, who guided Jamaica to the Under-17 World Cup finals in Mexico two years ago.
He pointed out that although the youth teams are not seen in the same way as the seniors, "the youngsters are the future of Jamaica's football. Give them the opportunity to make their families and the entire Jamaica proud."
The coach went on to say that the squad is currently preparing for the CONCACAF Under-17 Champion-ships to be held in Panama from April 6-19, which serves as a qualifyer for the FIFA World Cup.
"We are looking to play three to four international friendly games against quality opponents, but financially that's a challenge. We need the support as the financial aspect is beating us. We are appealing for assistance," Downswell, who is also a former national player and senior team head coach, disclosed.
Another challenge facing the team is that the players are based in schools islandwide.
"We will hold dialogue with ISSA (Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association) to see how we can work out a solution so that the team can be together for longer periods," he said.
Right now, the Jamaica Under-17 squad is participating in the Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) league as part of their local preparation.
"Well, so far things are going as planned. We have used different squads in the Syd Bartlett in order to look at as many players as we can. The preparation is going good as we have won all four games we played in the Syd Bartlett so far."
The Jamaica Under-17 team defeated Central Kingston (4-1), Stony Hill (6-2), Seaview Gardens (4-0) and Maverley/Hughenden (2-0). They next play Red Hills tomorrow at the Real Mona playing field.
Jamaica qualified for the 12-team CONCACAF tourney alongside Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Cuba, following Caribbean Football Union play-offs last summer.
The youngsters have been attending weekend training camps since late December.
"We will have a core group of about 18-20 players for the final squad of about 25 players for the CONCACAF tournament," Downswell noted.
The 15th tournament of the FIFA Under-17 World Cup will be held in the UAE between October 17 to November 8. A total of 24 teams will compete for the World Cup title.
Jamaica's initial qualification for the Under-17 FIFA World Cup Championship was in 1999, an achievement they repeated 12 years later. Now, Downswell is hopeful that the nation can advance to another FIFA Under-17 World Cup.