Sport

Boyz offered landmark entry to Copa America, says Burrell

...Mexico other invited CONCACAF team for 2015 edition

Saturday, May 24, 2014    

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JAMAICA have been offered a landmark entry into the 2015 Copa America to be hosted in Chile, according to local football boss Captain Horace Burrell.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president, speaking at Thursday evening's Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) Awards Ceremony at the Courtleigh Auditorium, announced that Jamaica and CONCACAF rivals Mexico have been invited to the tournament, usually competed amongst South American teams.

"Jamaica have just been given an opportunity to play in next year's COPA America Championships for the first time. Two teams from the CONCACAF have been invited — Mexico and Jamaica," Burrell proudly stated as part of his declaration that the country's football has a "bright" future.

Jamaica, who have only qualified for the FIFA World Cup once — the 1998 showpiece in France — have fallen on hard times recently, failing to make the Brazil 2014 event, which begins next month.

In fact, the Reggae Boyz, normally competitive at the regional CONCACAF level, ended last in the final round phase of World Cup qualifying and were sent packing at the group stage of the previous Caribbean Football Union (CFU) tournament.

But Burrell believes that Jamaica's global recognition and marketability, and the Boyz' innate attributes have made them an attractive option for CONMEBOL, the football governing body for the South America region.

"Our neighbours in CONCACAF, and even football regions further afield, have recognised Jamaica's potential in football. I think people are taking notice of our organisation and our broader development efforts as a football-playing nation. Once we can work out some issues that impedes the rate of our progress, like the poor playing surfaces that our youngsters have to play on, then we will be on our way.

"There's no doubt about the talent that is available to us, and there are those who admire the uniqueness of our athleticism, so really it's just a matter of time before Jamaica's football explodes, and there are those who believe in this potential.

"Also, I believe that the Reggae Boyz is an admired team by others out there, so too is Brand Jamaica which is a pull to those on the outside," Burrell told the Jamaica Observer in a follow-up interview.

Only three weeks ago, in Miami, during a joint press conference between the CONCACAF and CONMEBOL, both confederations outlined a super tournament to commemorate the 100th year of the Copa America.

It is argued that the merger is in keeping with a broad vision of forming beneficial inter-continental working relationships between the respective parties.

In the 16-team Centennial Copa America, CONMEBOL's 10-member associations — Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela — will be joined by six participants from CONCACAF.

The Copa America is generally staged every two years.

For Burrell, the celebratory tournament represents another chance to face some of the big players in world football.

"There are some exciting times ahead for Jamaica's football, and what's sweet about this all, is that Jamaica will have a second chance to play against top-class South American opposition in the Centennial Copa America.

"For Jamaica to earn an automatic berth to that tournament in 2016, all they have to do is to win the Caribbean Cup that will be staged in Montego Bay this November. So these are great opportunities for Jamaica to lift its profile in the realms of football and we do intend as a Federation to take full advantage," he said.

The Reggae Boyz have arranged a series of high profile Friendly Internationals ahead of the start of the World Cup.

Over the next two weeks, Jamaica will play Serbia, Egypt, Switzerland and France — all on overseas soil.

— Sanjay Myers

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