BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Caribbean Football Union president, Gordon “Banks” Derrick believes the Caribbean’s participation in the Centennial edition of the Copa America, can result in a rise in the standard of football in the region.
He was speaking following the announcement that six teams from the confederation for North, Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF) – including the Caribbean Cup winner in November – would join the top national sides in South America for the historic 2016 Copa America.
“Your Caribbean team could legitimately be in a tournament with Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador. It means the standard of Caribbean football has to rise,” Derrick told CMC Sports.
“The only way to improve is playing against better competition. As they say, iron sharpeneth iron so you have to play against tough teams, that’s how you get your team up there.”
He continued: “However, you also have to put your best players on the field at all times so the youngsters know they can get there (high standard). There’s a Caribbean Cup, there’s a Gold Cup, there’s this Copa America and there’s the World Cup again, so there’s always high level tournaments that if you play well and can organise yourselves, you will get there.”
The Caribbean Cup winners will automatically qualify for the Copa America and will be joined by reigning CONCACAF Gold Cup champions the United States and perennial champions Mexico.
There will also be automatic qualification for the Central American Cup champions, with the final two spots being determined by a playoff involving the four highest placed teams in the 2015 Gold Cup, who have not already achieved automatic qualification.
With the likelihood of Caribbean national teams clashing with the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay, Derrick says he foresees a strengthening of the entire confederation, but in particular, the Caribbean.
“It can only make the confederation stronger. We’ve had some very good performances by Central America. Costa Rica are in the World Cup finals, Honduras are in the finals,” he pointed out.
“You’ve also got the perennial teams like United States and Mexico, and Canada are there or thereabouts but the Caribbean is making some noise now and I think as a confederation, as we get stronger and stronger, our football pedigree as a region will definitely rise.”
Derrick said the involvement in Copa America would also lead to a more competitive Caribbean Cup, scheduled for Montego Bay, Jamaica from November 9-18.
“I am very excited. I am so happy about this announcement. It just provides another avenue for us to play at the highest level with the top teams so there is really a carrot now in front of every national team,” he noted.
“So it is now just not the World Cup and the Gold Cup but now you have this one coming in 2016. I think this version of the Caribbean Cup is going to be even more off the hook. We have set the dates to correspond with the international dates so every single country should have their top team available.”