The Caribbean island of Aruba recently hosted its first-ever FIFA Com-Unity seminar in the hopes of improving the country’s status in the world of football. Three days of intense discussions, presentations and workshops can only help as the picturesque, holiday paradise aims to step up off the foot of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking and make a move toward respectability.
While millions of tourists flock to the beautiful island each year, Aruba is frustratingly not known for its status in the world of football, a situation that officials on the former Dutch colony are hoping will change soon. Football is the country’s number-one sport and the game is played at all levels, a passion that has yet to translate into anything resembling international success. Aruba’s national team have never gone deep into qualifying for the FIFA World Cup™, never reached a CONCACAF Gold Cup or been crowned champions of the Caribbean.
“Aruba needs to believe in itself and to know there are no limits,” said Teofilo ‘Nene’ Cubillas, a FIFA Ambassador on hand for the seminar and a former playing legend with his native Peru. “New players, future stars can come from anywhere, not just the bigger football nations like Germany, Brazil, Spain or Argentina. If you look at Surinam and the great talents they have produced, then why not Aruba?”
The relationship between KNVB (the Royal Dutch Football Association) and the Dutch Antilles (of which Aruba is a part) is a unique opportunity to improve Aruban football. Johan Van Gejin, The KNVB representative at the seminar said: “I’ve been coming to Aruba and the region in an official capacity since 2003. We have educated more coaches than any other of the Dutch Antilles territories. We have licensed over a hundred UEFA “C” certified coaches in Aruba,” speaking to the improvements noted as a result of the partnership between the two countries.
Dick Howard the manager of WICWC project (Win in CONCACAF with CONCACAF Youth Development Programme) added: “The Com-Unity seminar will, hopefully provide a starting point for a new era in Aruban football, bringing together the football family on the multicultural island.” Jurg Nepfer head of FIFA’s Education & Technical Development Department was in agreement: ”There is a lot of interest, a lot of ideas, a lot of potential, competence and experience. There is a way to work together.” Aruba’s minister for Health and Sports, Richard Wayne Milton Visser, was on hand for the seminar’s closing ceremony. “Thank you FIFA and KNVB for a job well done…football will make a big difference in Aruba”.
There was additional good news for the island and its hopes of moving up in the football world. The Dutch women’s national team has agreed to visit Aruba in 2012 to tour and train amid the gleaming white sand beaches and blazing sunshine.