France ‘98 Reggae Boyz shoot for Concacaf Nations League
France ‘98 veteran Ricardo “Bibi” Gardner thinks Concacaf’s Nations League offers enormous benefits for small members of the Caribbean. (Photo: Mexsport)

KINGSTON, Jamaica - Two of Jamaica’s more celebrated footballers have embraced the new Concacaf Nations League, both saluting the region-wide tournament for its developmental value.

France ‘98 veterans Ricardo “Bibi” Gardner and Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore, both retired as players, have advanced the view that Concacaf’s new path could be seen as an open door into a dimension of enormous benefits, especially for “small” members of the Caribbean.

“I think this tournament is great and I must commend Concacaf for what they are doing and this can only help our region and that is what Concacaf represents, the region. 

“At the end of the day, we have to try and build based on where we are coming from as a region and this is a great chance for Caribbean countries in particular, to not only develop themselves within the Caribbean, but to develop themselves on a wider scale where they will be able to travel to the different islands, and the rest of the Concacaf region during these FIFA dates to be able to be active,” said Gardner.

The exciting left-winger and midfielder, who has had a successful career in the English Premier League with Bolton Wanderers, is of the view that the smaller countries of the confederation should see overall growth by having meaningful and regular competitive games.

“Remember that competitive football is what will make the difference as you will have to learn to perform under pressure. I can only see this getting better and this is certainly a plus for the region’s football from a development point of view,” said Gardner, who has gone back to his boyhood club of Harbour View FC as coach.

Whitmore, who has been immortalised in Caribbean football folklore for his sublime brace in a 2-1 win over Japan in the historic qualification of the France ‘98 World Cup, says he finds joy that otherwise disenfranchised members of the 41-member Concacaf will now have the opportunity for self-actualisation.

“With this new tournament, every FIFA window countries would have a game to play. If you look back at the less fortunate like the Cayman Islands, they would normally be sitting idle on these dates, but now they will have games to play.

“This can only auger well for the development of these countries,” said the head coach of Jamaica’s senior men’s team.

Jamaica, the Caribbean’s number one team and sixth in Concacaf, will contest the Nations League qualifying play-offs against Cayman Islands, Suriname, Bonaire and El Salvador during the FIFA windows of September, October, November of this year and February of 2019.