Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Jeffrey Webb, president of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF), has urged greater levels of support from the Portia Simpson Miller administration if Jamaica is to ever host any of the age-group World Cups.
"I want today to send a personal note to Jamaica, to the prime minister through, of course, the sports minister and the Jamaica Football Federation, to challenge you. Set the bar higher," Webb urged. "Jamaica can do far greater than where we are. As a host country, infrastructure[-wise], Jamaica has the opportunity and the potential not only to host a CONCACAF U-17 tournament, but to host a World Championships."
He said that as president of CONCACAF, the conversation to engage the public and private sector must begin now, as the country can do so much more in the US$13-trillion industry of sports tourism.
WOMEN'S WORLD CUP
The occasion was the draw for the 2013 CONCACAF U-17 Women's Football Championship, which will see eight countries, including hosts Jamaica and defending champions United States, competing across two groups for the two automatic qualifying spots for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup to be held in Costa Rica in 2014.
He pointed out that Jamaica gets its fair share of games, but with full support from the Government, the private and public sectors, the football federation, and the community, much more can be achieved.
"Let us start the conversation," he said, "Let's have the discussion about the level of infrastructure within the Jamaican football family," said Webb.
"Jamaica, along with Trinidad and Tobago, are the two glowing flagships in Caribbean football. We must not only welcome the confederation here, but I challenge you and ask you to start the conversation to welcome the world to Jamaica."
While the comparatively tiny twin-island republic of Trinidad and Tobago has hosted two FIFA age-group World Cups, Jamaica has failed to galvanise enough support locally to launch a bid, but with the Confederation president seemingly willing to lend his support, and with the Jamaica Football Association boss Captain Horace Burrell all but willing to start the conversation, Jamaica could be in line to play host to the world in the near future.
"I have been making the point that Jamaica's football is more than qualifying for the football finals, because there are some great plans in the pipeline," declared Burrell.
"I may not have revealed everything, but I am thinking about the holistic development of Jamaican football, taking into account hosting of FIFA World Cups, Congresses, and doing so many other things," added Burrell.
One major plan is to have Jamaica hosting the 2016 FIFA Congress, which will bring 216 member states to Jamaica's shores, and Burrell is already delighted with the prospect of that happening.
"If the FIFA Congress comes here to Jamaica and Montego Bay, you are talking about millions of dollars, and this would add to the tourism product and would make things better for us," he reasoned, adding that the Government is already on board.
Burrell noted that a number of huge plans are being considered, but declined to comment further on them, noting that when the time is right, they will be revealed.