Historic! Golden Jaguars to play FIFA Series friendly matches in Saudi Arabia


By Avenash Ramzan


Guyana’s senior national men’s football team, the Golden Jaguars are set for a historic sojourn to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to play two international friendlies during the March window.

President of the Guyana Football Federation, Wayne Forde made the announcement on Thursday at the Federation’s headquarters in Dadanawa Street, Section ‘K’, Campbellville, Georgetown.

Jamaal Shabazz’s men will be up against Cabo Verde on March 21 and Cambodia on March 26. Both games will be played at the Prince Abdullah Al-Faisal Stadium, Jeddah.

Based on the current FIFA rankings, Cabo Verde is ranked 65, Guyana 157 and Cambodia 179.

CLICK: All you need to know about the FIFA Series

These matches are part of a new initiative approved by the FIFA Council in 2023 where in every even-numbered year the world governing body will host matches across the six confederations.

Dubbed the FIFA Series, the first-ever staging will allow football nations the opportunity to compete against teams outside their confederation.

According to FIFA, “The ultimate objective of the FIFA Series is to allow more international football interaction, making a concrete contribution to global football development. The pilot edition will feature 20 member associations playing in four locations across three continents.”

Algeria, Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka will be the host nations for the first FIFA Series.

GFF President Wayne Forde (right) and Golden Jaguars Head Coach Jamaal Shabazz at a press conference to announce details on the FIFA Series (Photo: News Room/Avenash Ramzan/March 7, 2024)

Forde, speaking at a press conference on Thursday, said the Guyana Football Federation feels a sense of pride, having made the cut for this inaugural series.

“This is the first edition of the FIFA Series and the Guyana Football Federation is very proud that we have been selected to be part of this inaugural initiative,” Forde told media operatives.

“I know this is an exciting experience for the players and the coaching staff and we look forward to them having a tremendous experience and of course delivering memorable results for the nation.”

Opportunity and challenge for Guyana

The FIFA Series was announced by the FIFA Council in December 2022 and immediately drew significant attention from FIFA Member Associations (MAs).

FIFA stated on its website that this project was naturally appealing to those MAs who were available and had no prior friendly or qualification commitments for the March 2024 international window.

These discussions held through the FIFA Member Associations division led to the present line-up of participating teams.

Forde added, “The GFF continues to do its part to broaden its bilateral relationships with its fellow MAs across the six confederations. We have been heavily supported by FIFA and we’re happy to be among the first nations to introduce this new initiative.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a completely different part of the world- it’s a brand new experience for all of us, moreso our players. The environment will be very different from what they are accustomed to within the confederation of Concacaf and we hope they would seize the opportunity to perform to their utmost.”

It is the hope of Forde that the Golden Jaguars players can impress Saudi Arabian clubs and scouts at the games, an expectation that Head Coach Shabazz also has.

The gaffer labelled the creation of the FIFA Series and Guyana’s selection “a historic moment for us in several ways.”

“It’s very expensive to move from one confederation to a next to play a friendly match, and the Guyana Football Federation being a part of this project is huge,” Shabazz reasoned.

“This is a huge opportunity. Guyana for the first time we will actually be playing in the Middle East, which is another historic moment.”

Importantly, these matches afford Shabazz and his technical team the chance to assess the players ahead of that all-important World Cup qualifier against Panama on June 6.

‘Positive step’

For FIFA President Gianni Infantino the FIFA Series is a positive step forward for national-team football on a global scale.

“Our member associations have been telling us for a long time now of their desire to test themselves against their counterparts from all around the world, and now they can do so within the current Men’s International Match Calendar.

“More meaningful matches will enable far more valuable footballing interaction for players, teams and fans, and will make a concrete contribution to the development of the game.”

When does the FIFA Series take place?

Ahead of the full roll-out in March 2026, the pilot project will run from March 18-26, 2024.

The forthcoming edition of the FIFA Series will feature national teams from all six confederations, and future instalments are planned during every March international match window of even years.

Which teams will be involved in the FIFA Series 2024?

FIFA Series- Algeria: Algeria (CAF), Andorra (UEFA), Bolivia (CONMEBOL) and South Africa (CAF)

FIFA Series- Azerbaijan: Azerbaijan (UEFA), Bulgaria (UEFA), Mongolia (AFC) and Tanzania (CAF)

FIFA Series- Saudi Arabia A: Cabo Verde (CAF), Cambodia (AFC), Equatorial Guinea (CAF) and Guyana (Concacaf)

FIFA Series- Saudi Arabia B: Bermuda (Concacaf), Brunei Darussalam (AFC), Guinea (CAF) and Vanuatu (OFC)

FIFA Series- Sri Lanka: Bhutan (AFC), Central African Republic (CAF), Papua New Guinea (OFC) and Sri Lanka (AFC)

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