MIAMI. Member Associations from the Caribbean have welcomed with open arms the game-changing Concacaf Nations League.
At a dazzling event at The Temple House in Miami Beach this week, Concacaf officially unveiled the confederation-wide tournament, providing details of structure and format. It also staged a draw to determine match-ups in the qualifying phase set to kick off in September.
The full schedule of the first stage of the ground-breaking tournament was determined by the draw and will be played in the FIFA calendar windows of September, October, November of 2018 and that of March 2019.
President of the Grenada Football Association (GFA) Cheney Joseph said while his country stands to benefit from the new tournament, he admitted the “Spice Boys” will face tough opposition.
“We are away to Curacao, then we go home for Cuba, then home to French St. Martin and then away to Puerto Rico, and it’s not easy in my opinion. However, with that said, I think we have the quality to gain maximum points in all of those, but what it says is that we have our work cut out so all we have to do now is start preparing.”
The GFA boss believes that Concacaf has hit the mark with the new competition, which is viewed for its development and competition value for all 41 members of the subcontinental grouping.
“I must congratulate Concacaf in what I think was a remarkable launch and I must also credit it them for the new logo… I think for small islands this is a big opportunity because now the young players can dream of playing against somebody (bigger teams), so it’s all good,” noted Joseph.
Puerto Rican Football Federation president Eric Labrador believes the Nations League will bring unquantifiable benefits, not only to his country’s football, but to the wider Concacaf family.
“We are very satisfied with the draw and we are happy that Concacaf has come with the Nations League which will give us in the Caribbean the opportunity to have more games in the four cycles (FIFA calendar window) and this is going to be very good for the development of football in our region,” said Labrador.
Puerto Rico has been pitted in the qualifying stage against St Kitts and Nevis, Martinique, Belize and Grenada.
Anthony Johnson, who heads the St Kitts and Nevis Football Association, says the Nations League will bring welcome relief to the competition-staved small nations of the Confederation.
“It is extremely important as the complaint for a long time is that we (smaller Caribbean territories) have not been playing enough, so it is an excellent idea to utilise the FIFA dates to play among the Concacaf countries and that is one way we will see increased development and exposure.”
As far as the draw was concerned, Johnson is optimistic.
“We are very satisfied as we have both Puerto Rico and Canada at home in St Kitts and then we travel to Suriname and French St Martin, so it was a competitive draw. We expect to be fully prepared for the tournament and we expect good results.”
“I know that the public is excited and they will become more aware about the details in the coming days, and I think the excitement will increase given particularly the countries we will be playing against on home soil,” concluded Johnson.