Sport

Jamaica to host 2014 Caribbean Cup

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Assistant Sport Editor

Tuesday, March 18, 2014    

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JAMAICA will host the 2014 edition of the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Caribbean Championship, top regional football officials confirmed yesterday.

The biennial tournament is expected to be staged during the FIFA calendar window of November 10-18 and will be hosted in picturesque Montego Bay, Jamaica's tourist capital.

CFU General Secretary Damien Hughes, in confirming the development last evening, gave reasons the island was granted hosting rights over other bidders.

"We selected Jamaica because we have confidence in the country to mobilise all the relevant stakeholders — the corporate aspect, plus they have the ability to motivate people to come out and support the games.

"Also, we are satisfied with the quality of the facilities, plus the CFU is of the view that Jamaica is well positioned to achieve the objectives," he said.

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Captain Horace Burrell was delighted with Jamaica being granted the hosting rights for the Caribbean's top tournament, a qualifier for the prestigious CONCACAF Gold Cup.

"At this stage of our football development, this is exactly the medicine that the doctor ordered... this is a tournament that is sometimes elusive for Jamaica, and I am just happy that we have been able to pin it down," he told the Jamaica Observer.

Burrell, a CONCACAF vice-president, said this year's tournament will be special for numerous reasons, claiming that "based on the ingredients, this is shaping up to be the best ever".

"Firstly, the tournament will be held during the FIFA calendar window, which means that all eight finalists will have their top overseas players, which will ensure the tournament has star power, plus high quality of play."

As a qualifier for the Gold Cup, only the top-four finishers of the Caribbean Championship usually advance to CONCACAF's marquis event. But there's a new format this time around.

"A new and exciting element to the regional tournament is that the fifth-place finisher in Montego Bay will have a chance to qualify for the Gold Cup in a play-off with the fifth-place team from Central America," Burrell revealed.

Jamaica, who won the tournament the last time they hosted it in 2008, have a painful memory of the last championship held in Antigua and Barbuda in 2012.

As defending champions from Martinique in 2010, the Reggae Boyz, in the height of their World Cup qualifying campaign, gave a dismal showing and consequently failed to emerge from the group phase in 2012.

That meant they did not progress to the Gold Cup of last year, squandering a great opportunity for invaluable match practice for the final stage of their Brazil 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign.

This time around, as hosts, the Boyz are expected to finish in style, and should Burrell's rhetoric be taken seriously, all will be done to avoid a repeat of the Antigua fiasco.

"I am still hurt by what we did in Antigua, and we can't afford for that to happen and we are not in the Gold Cup...some people are yet to fathom the impact of not playing in the Gold Cup...I think it hurt our World Cup efforts, plus our FIFA ranking," Burrell noted.

The JFF boss explained that once again Montego Bay, for its obvious advantages, was chosen as host city for the Caribbean Championship, adding to its list of credits.

In recent times, as Montego Bay slowly establishes itself as the "football capital of Jamaica", the tourist mecca hosted the CONCACAF Men's Under-17 Championship in 2011, where Jamaica qualified for the Mexico tournament, and last November it welcomed seven CONCACAF countries for the Women's Under-17 equivalent.

"The JFF decided on Montego Bay because of the support of Montegonians for football, plus the stadium is well-maintained and will cost less.

"Also, Montego Bay, as a tourist destination, has it advantages from a business perspective...there are great hotels, they know how to receive and treat visitors, plus the international media will want to cover whatever happens in Montego Bay," Burrell said.

At the 2012 Caribbean Championship, the tournament was staged without a title sponsor, and it's been an uphill task finding one since cellphone giant Digicel pulled the plug.

"We are working around the clock to have a title sponsor, but it has not been easy...we have been looking around and engaging people, so hopefully we will succeed.

"But from a local perspective, in terms of organising the tournament on the ground, we are going to require all hands on deck to ensure success, and that's why we will be engaging the hotel sector, the Tourism Enhancement Fund, associated sectors, and the wider business community of Montego Bay," Burrell outlined.

When reached yesterday, Mayor of Montego Bay Glendon Harris said he was delighted by the fact that his city is being recognised once again as the preferred place for hosting international sporting events, which is in keeping with his philosophy of sport tourism.

"It means a lot that this tournament is coming to my city, and the fact that we embrace it goes to show that we take sport tourism seriously," he said.

"This will certainly be an additional boost to the local economy; businesses will definitely benefit. And I must say that I am particularly grateful to football, in particular, and what it has done and continues to do for Montego Bay...just look at what's happening to our Montego Bay United, they are comfortably on top of the Premier League," added Harris, who will chair the local organising committee.

Nations desirous to join Jamaica in November will have to compete in a CFU-organised qualifying tournament to be staged in groups region-wide.

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