Jamaica declares intention to launch bid to host historic Gold Cup matchThursday, July 05, 2018
BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Call him an optimist, call him lion-hearted, call him a dreamer, call him what you will, but what you certainly cannot call Michael Ricketts in this particular case is a man who lacks the daring to reach high.
When CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani announced not so long ago that for the first time Caribbean and Central American members will host Gold Cup games starting with the 2019 edition, someone stirred.
Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Ricketts knew right away that this could be a great opportunity and a possible signature moment if Jamaica could snare that precious Caribbean hosting spot. But in his boiling excitement, he knows that snatching the hosting right for a slice of the rosy Gold Cup pie is easier said than done.
“We will be making a desperate attempt to have the opening game played at the National Stadium,” Ricketts told the Jamaica Observer.
“Whether that is going to be successful or not, that's another story,” he added.
Since it started in 1991, the CONCACAF Gold Cup has centrally been hosted in the vast USA market, with neighbours Canada and Mexico having co-hosted this commercial behemoth of a tournament.
But new CONCACAF boss Montagliani has championed and succeeded in getting the confederation council to see things his way in a direct spreading of the wealth, the experience and legacy of the biennial tournament to the Caribbean and Central America.
“With the upcoming selection of additional venues in the Caribbean and Central America, the Gold Cup becomes a regional event on even more levels as CONCACAF continues to focus on making football accessible to more teams, players and fans,” the Concacaf president said back in May.
Though details of the new move are still to be worked out, it is expected that only one match for each of the territories will be awarded.
Still, the prospects are mouthwatering, and for those who think they possess the infrastructure and the overall capacity to host, the race is on.
“Of course there will be an inspection (by CONCACAF) of the best venue we have and we are hopeful and looking forward to host at least one of these Gold Cup games.”
“There will be some stringent criteria, but hopefully the National Stadium will be good enough to host these types of games. I really don't think we would have a problem with ground transportation and the availability of hotels of the required standard… but we are looking forward and ready to try and meet these criteria, of course, set out by CONCACAF,” said Ricketts yesterday.
Trinidad and Tobago, based on a number of fundamentals, is expected to be a strong candidate for the Caribbean leg.
The JFF president said irrespective of which Caribbean island wins the right to host, regional football will be the ultimate victor.
“We are hopeful and we are very optimistic that there will be some major economic spin-offs for the Caribbean… hosting Gold Cup games in the Caribbean must have some positive impact from a footballing and economic standpoint,” he noted.
With first-time host countries from the Caribbean and Central America a part of a major organisational shift, the Gold Cup will also move to 16, up from 12 teams.
That, in itself, is seen as an opportunity for increased Caribbean participation by qualifying through the new Nations League.
“Let's be reminded that the Gold Cup will now move to 16 teams, so there will definitely be a lot more football. So all in all, football will be the winner,” Ricketts argued.
But long before that and in what is a done deal, Jamaica's next hosting assignment will be the final of the CONCACAF CFU Women's Qualifying finals at the National Stadium August 25 — September 2.
“We have set up our committee and Bruce Gaynor (JFF vice-president) will chair this committee in his portfolio responsibility for international affairs... also on the committee is the general secretary (Dalton Wint), Janice Rose-Brown (director of operations, public relations and events), Debra Shaw… we will certainly give this our best shot and we are ready,” Ricketts said.
The final round — to be contested by the five first-round group winners Antigua & Barbuda, Bermuda, Cuba, Jamaica, and Trinidad & Tobago — will qualify three Caribbean teams to the 2018 Concacaf Women's Championship to be held in the USA in October.