One Guyana President’s Cup seen as pathway to 2026 World Cup qualification
By Avenash Ramzan
President Irfaan Ali told a gathering at State House on Wednesday evening that the inaugural One Guyana President’s Cup football tournament is geared to create a pathway to Guyana’s qualification to the next World Cup in 2026.
Delivering feature remarks at the official launch of the nationwide tournament he conceptualised, the Head-of-State announced that 75 of the best players from the competition will be selected and filtered into an academy.
These players will be subjected to constant training and fine-tuning of their skills, while also being able to earn through part-time jobs.
The national pool of players will also be involved in community related projects.
“As I said to the Guyana Football Federation, this is about a mission and an aspiration of us getting into the next World Cup. The government is committed to removing all barriers that will prevent you from giving your best shot in getting into the next World Cup,” President Ali said to rapturous applause from attendees.
The President added that his government will work along with all stakeholders to ensure the World Cup dream is a reality.
Importantly, Guyana has never qualified for the global showpiece, the 2022 edition of which is ongoing in Qatar.
The academy, Dr. Ali outlined to the footballers present, is “aimed at making football your food and fuel for the next couple of years in preparation for us going to the World Cup.”
“You will have to subject yourself to the training,” he added.
“We are going to work in putting you in the part-time employment programme so you will have an income.”
“And then of course there is an overarching strategy that the Guyana Football Federation is also working on to add to that pool. At the end of the whole strategy, we’re hoping to put together a team that can give of their best and compete to get to the next World Cup. At least we know we’re giving it our best shot.”
The next World Cup will be hosted by the Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) region and will be the largest-ever, featuring 48 nations and 80 matches over a 34-day period.
By virtue of being the host countries, USA, Canada and Mexico will gain automatic qualification, leaving the door ajar for three other nations from the Confederation.
This is the largest number of qualifying spots ever available to the Confederation.
Previously, CONCACAF had three and a half qualifying spots- the half being for a continental play-off.
“This is perhaps one of our closest opportunities- I wouldn’t say easiest- to get to the World Cup because of how it is structured and where we’re located. So it’s really up to the guys in this room to make it happen,” the President said.
The ‘United’ World Cup is anticipated to generate $14bn (£10.3bn) in revenue and make an $11bn (£8.1bn) profit for FIFA.
Of the 16 host cities, 10 will be in the United States while the remainder will be split evenly between Canada and Mexico. Sixty matches will take place in the US, while Canada and Mexico will host 10 games each.
The final will be held at the 84,953-capacity MetLife Stadium, which is home to NFL sides the New York Giants and the New York Jets.
The tournament will mark the first time a World Cup has been shared by three host nations.
One Guyana President’s Cup
The Guyana Football Federation on Tuesday conducted the draw for the championship round.
The 10 regional teams now know who they will face in the round-robin group stage, before advancing to the knockout phase of the tournament, to have a chance to become the first One Guyana President’s Cup champions on January 1, 2023.
The teams were first seeded and then placed into two groups of five at the end of the draw conducted by the GFF.
The tournament focuses on expanding the reach of football across Guyana and increasing the player population, while at the same time creating opportunities to scout new talent within communities that were traditionally off the formal football grid.
The first leg of the tournament kicked off on November 13 and only the top clubs advanced to the December championship round.
The 10 qualified teams will battle in front of crowds at venues across Guyana, including the National Track and Field Centre at Leonora, GFC, Number Five ground, Albion Community Centre, Buxton Community Centre and Bartica.
President Ali announced that a corporate sponsor will be attached to each Region, with Caribbean Airlines, New GPC Inc., ANSA McAL Trading, E-Networks, GTT, Digicel and the Beharry Group committing thus far.