FIFA vice-president and President of CONCACAF Jack A. Warner has spoken to FIFA.com about his passion for youth and women's football, urging for more investment at grassroots level in order to ensure a rise in standards. Warner spoke to FIFA's Official Website following a meeting of the Caribbean Football Union.
The CFU, the nominal governing body for Caribbean football met in between the meeting of the FIFA Executive Committee and the FIFA Congress in Nassau. It comprises 25 of FIFA's 208 Member Associations as well as French Guiana, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Saint-Martin and Sint Maarten, who are not affiliated to FIFA. The Union organises many tournaments, some of which serve as qualifiers for CONCACAF tournaments such as the Caribbean Cup (a qualifier for the CONCACAF Gold Cup), the CFU Club Championship (where the top three clubs qualify for the CONCACAF Champions League), Mens and Womens U-20 and U-17 qualifiers plus both Olympic and Futsal qualifiers.
Warner, who is also the President of the CFU, was eager to highlight two of the special projects which are about to get underway in North, Central America and the Caribbean. One is specific to the CFU, namely Vision Caribbean, while Win in CONCACAF with CONCACAF is also being implemented in the coming months.
"The CFU started life in 1978 and I was elected President in 1982," he told FIFA.com. "Since then I've done my best to enlarge the membership, but more importantly established a ‘Caribbean solidarity.' We now have 27 members and brought several under the FIFA umbrella. As a result, they've been beneficiaries of everything that FIFA has had to offer in terms of courses, programmes and seminars.
Not enough is being done for youth football, for women's football, for sports medicine, for refereeing development and administration.
"Not enough is being done for youth football, for women's football, for sports medicine, for refereeing development and administration. Many countries think their objective is to qualify for a World Cup, not realising that many will never qualify for one, but many of them could make a youth World Cup, a U-17 or U-20 for example. But to do this you have to develop your country's footballing infrastructure and Vision Caribbean is a programme which we hope will raise standards.
"Win in CONCACAF with CONCACAF is also about to begin and we've decided to kick-off the initial phase with 12 countries. We're going to look to see how we can assist youth, grassroots and the professional leagues in these countries. I hope that in the future we can include more countries in the scheme."
The development of women's football in Caribbean is being addressed at the moment, with Hema Ramkissoon, the LOC's Communications Specialist for the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup Trinidad and Tobago 2010 eager to point out what is being done and what needs to be done before the tournament kicks-off next year.
"A lot of work is going into youth development, we're forming an U-15 development programme, so in Trinidad and Tobago we've gone on a massive recruitment drive. This has included a screening activity which attracted about 100 girls. We recently had the launch of a women's league and the interest in that was a lot greater than anticipated, so we see it as a positive sign. In the Caribbean though, it's not picked up as much as we'd like. Maybe it's a cultural change which will take time, but it is happening.
Warner is calling on FIFA to continue to play its role in the growth of youth and women's football. World football's governing body has now supplemented the Financial Assistance Programme and Goal Programme with the WICWC - the latest initiative injecting an extra $10m into the region. He argues that FIFA should also be supported by the governments of individual countries.
If you want to improve standards in the men's and women's game, you have to build from the foundations, from the grassroots.
"I sincerely believe that FIFA should put money into youth development and women's football. I'm so passionate about the two. For me, both are as equally important as one another. If you want to improve standards in the men's and women's game, you have to build from the foundations, from the grassroots.
"However, I have a serious problem at the moment because FIFA is helping countries more and more and in some cases, particularly in the Caribbean, governments are withdrawing their financial support. FIFA didn't come to replace governmental contributions, they came to assist. FIFA is being seen in some cases as a ‘footballing godfather' which is the be all and end all. We have to find a way to redress this situation."
The full list of members of the CFU is as follows:
Anguilla, Antigua-Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, French Guyana, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts-Nevis, St. Lucia , St. Maarten, St. Martin, St. Vincent and The Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, US Virgin Islands.