Mon | May 27, 2024

Ricketts aiming for 2026 World Cup and beyond

Published:Friday | April 19, 2024 | 12:09 AMGregory Bryce/Staff Reporter
JFF President Michael Ricketts

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts says the federation is not only aiming for automatic qualification for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, but will be working on plans to ensure the nation is competitive in the following World Cup cycles.

Speaking at a press conference yesterday at the JFF headquarters, Ricketts said the goal is to create a sustainable programme that is able to challenge for a spot in the World Cup for years to come.

For Ricketts, he hopes qualification to the World Cup will prove to have a positive social impact for the Jamaican public and be an inspiration for young players.

“We want to leave a legacy here and we want to impact the lives of some disenfranchised boys and girls. So it’s not just to qualify for 2026, but to ensure that we have a lasting impact on sports and on the social well-being of boys and girls,” he said.

Jamaica are drawn in Group E in the second round of the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers alongside Guatemala, Dominica, the Dominican Republic and the British Virgin Islands.

The top two teams from the group will advance to the third round of qualification.

The Reggae Boyz will play the Dominican Republic on June 6 at the National Stadium to open their qualifying campaign before facing Dominica away on June 9.

“We don’t want to drop the ball”

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will be the first of its kind to have the expanded 48-team tournament, which has seen Concacaf being allocated six automatic qualifying spots and two inter-continental play-off spots.

With the United States, Canada and Mexico having already qualified for the 2026 World Cup by virtue of being host nations, Jamaica are touted to be one of the top contenders for the remaining qualifying spots.

However, Ricketts said despite the favourable situation, the JFF will not be complacent in their preparations.

“People are saying that it’s going to be easy but we still have to work as hard as we can. We don’t want to drop the ball here and this is why we engaged coach Heimir Hallgrímsson because we understand the importance of a development programme that will take us past 2026 and beyond,” the JFF president said.

Jamaica’s first, and to date only, ever appearance at the FIFA World Cup, at the senior level, came in France 1998. The team also achieved the nation’s first-ever World Cup victory with a 2-1 win over Japan.