Dominican Republic dreaming big
Jacques Passy heading up an ambitious project in Dominican Republic
The goal: to be a football powerhouse in the Caribbean
Sights set on 2026
A nation of 11 million people, Dominican Republic is situated on one of the most populous islands in the world. For some reason, however, the country was slow to show its passion for football.
The arrival of the sport to the country had much to do with Spanish immigrants in the first half of the 20th century, and as the sport began to grow so the Dominican Football Association (FDF) was founded, in 1953.
And yet football has always been overshadowed in Dominican Republic by baseball, a sport in which it is a global power, continually producing star players. Things have begun to change since the turn of the millennium, with football enjoying much faster growth, giving the island’s fans good reason to dream about the future.
“We have a league with talented players, a league that’s growing and is now heading into its sixth year,” said Dominican Republic’s national team coach, Jacques Passy, in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com. “Though it’s only just got going, it’s achieving big results already. Teams like Cibao and Pantoja have done well in the Caribbean and football is having more and more of an impact. It’s easy just to sit there and say that it’s a baseball country, which it is, but you also have to see that football is taking over in some parts of the nation.”
The Mexican is heading up the FDF’s efforts to put together a project that will take the nation into the elite of the Concacaf Zone.
“It’s a country with a huge amount of talent,” he added. “We have more than 100 players in Europe, in various leagues and divisions, but we haven’t made the most of that in the national team. In recent years we haven’t managed to create a national team that everyone looks to and which is a priority. My main challenge is to harness all that talent and create a team, in every sense of the word.”
The lowdown on Dominican Republic
Its capital city is Santo Domingo
The official language is Spanish
It shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti
Its beautiful landscapes are popular with tourists
The climate is tropical and very rainy
Dreams and obstacles
Young players are one of the mainstays of the Dominican Republic project, as Passy went on to explain: “We’re going to see a generation that will take Dominican Republic far. We’re making a strong commitment and looking to 2026 with a very clear objective. In ten years, I see the country as a powerhouse in the Caribbean.
“The U-17 and U-20 national team coaches are on my coaching staff and we have a close relationship and are very well organised. Having them with me helps me bring talented young players through.”
Though the Covid-19 pandemic has put all Passy’s plans on hold, he hopes it is just a temporary inconvenience.
“We organised matches that we came close to playing and get-togethers that we came close to having, but in the end they didn’t take place. Let’s see what happens next year. My policy is never to make excuses. We’ve all suffered and we’re all starting from the same place, and we’ll be looking to qualify for Qatar.”
A hectic 2021
A busy schedule lies ahead and the project to take Dominican Republic football to the next level remains in place. 2021 will be crucial to making it happen and turning dreams into reality.
“I’m in charge of the full national team and the U-23s,” said Passy. “We’ve got the Olympic qualifiers and the World Cup qualifiers coming up in March, which is going to be a huge logistical challenge because we’ve got a very young national team.”
Passy had a pledge for the nation, however: “I want to say to the people of Dominican Republic that the time has come for us to all build this new era. We’ve all suffered in what has been a tough year and we all wanted to play more. We’re looking to the future with optimism because we’re going to fight very hard in 2021. The national team will be a machine in every match, both mentally and tactically.”