By RON FANFAIR
Canada and Jamaica are in the same group for next month’s Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Associations of Soccer (CONCACAF) Women’s Under-17 World Cup qualifying tournament in Costa Rica.
The two teams will meet on March 11, a day after the opening ceremony and matches. The other teams in the group are Mexico and Panama.
The other group comprises host country Costa Rica, the United States, the Cayman Islands and Haiti which is competing in a regional women’s series for the first time in eight years.
The Haitians are already in the Dominican Republic preparing for the tournament.
“Haiti’s participation in this tournament under the most difficult circumstances is a testament to the will and commitment of the Haitian Soccer Federation, their players and coaches and the Haitian people,” said CONCACAF president Austin “Jack” Warner who visited the devastated country last week to offer encouragement to the Haitian Soccer Federation. “We applaud their perseverance and look forward to working together to rebuild their soccer program and country.”
Canada opposes Panama on March 13 and Mexico two days later. The tournament starts on March 10 with Haiti meeting the United States and Costa Rica hosting the Cayman Islands.
The top two teams advance to the International Soccer Federation (FIFA) World Cup competition in September in Trinidad & Tobago which automatically qualifies as the host country.
Canada finished third in the inaugural Women’s Under-20 championship and reached the quarter-final of the International Soccer Federation’s (FIFA) first competition at this age level in New Zealand two years ago.
Canada and the Caribbean, meanwhile, will not have referees at this year’s World Cup competition in South Africa. Four Africans – Mohammed Benouza of Algeria, Mali’s Koman Coulibaly, Jerome Damon from South Africa and Eddy Maillet of the Seychelles – have made the 30-man list. Canada’s Hector Veraga is an assistant referee.
And, Nigeria is looking for a head coach just four months before the start of the World Cup.
Shaibu Amodu was fired last weekend despite the team’s third-place finish in the just concluded Africa Cup of Nations tournament. He has been put in charge of overseeing the country’s home-based players for the new African Nations Championship competition for players who play club soccer in Africa.
“We believe the team has come to a key junction to decide whether we want to be viable,” said Nigerian Soccer Federation spokesman Ademola Olajire. “We are looking for someone who will drive this process professionally.”
Egyptian coach Hassan Shehata is favoured to replace Amodu whose team’s style of play, tactics and key decision-making were scrutinized during the Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
Neighbours Benin went a step further, sacking their entire coaching and playing staff.
The country’s soccer association cited indiscipline and “unpatriotism” in Angola as the reason for dissolution of the national side.
Benin finished third in its group with a solitary point after losing to Nigeria and Egypt and securing a draw with Mozambique.
And, thousands of Togolese staged demonstrations last weekend to protest the country’s four-year ban by the Confederation of African Soccer. The country was suspended for the next two Africa Cup of Nations competitions after the government withdrew the team from the just concluded tournament after a deadly attack on their team bus two days before the competition started.