Antigua & Barbuda seek competition for U17s after CONCACAF tournament withdrawal
ABFATechnical director Sowerby Gomes
ABFATechnical director Sowerby Gomes

ST JOHN’S, Antigua, (CMC) – Technical director Sowerby Gomes said the Antigua & Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) are working to organise a tournament against Caribbean opposition for the Under-17 girls’ national team.

This followed difficulties in securing appointments for players seeking United States visas that forced the team to be withdrawn from the qualifying competition for the CONCACAF Women’s Under-17 tournament, kicking off on Wednesday at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, in the U.S.

Gomes said 19 of the 24 selected players needed to travel to Barbados to fulfil visa appointments, but health and safety restrictions related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Bridgetown disrupted plans.

He said the United States embassy in Bridgetown, where the players were to be processed, reshuffled all appointments because of a surge in cases in Barbados and gave the players dates that fall way after the tournament was played.

“We had quite a few first-time applicants to the process, and the first-time applicants would have to go down [to Barbados] in person, and as a result, with the continued communication with Barbados, the date that came back to us was a date that was not acceptable because it would go way past the tournament,” he told the Antigua Observer newspaper.

“We would have gone through all of the protocols in terms of touching base with all of our people on the ground in Barbados, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs here in Antigua, and we exhausted all those options, but still were not successful in getting a proper date so that we could have been able to go before the embassy and get the visas approved.

Gomes told the Observer: “It was very disappointing on our end knowing that we would have applied for the visas since April, and now, based on the whole protocol situation in Barbados with the COVID-19, they came back and gave us a date that would have gone past the tournament.

“…that would have been a difficult situation for us since the ABFA would have invested so much cost in terms of getting the girls prepared for this particular tournament.”

CONCACAF announced changes to the groups and schedules for the qualifying tournament on Monday after Antigua & Barbuda and several others withdrew due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.

But Gomes told the Observer, there were ongoing talks between a few of the countries that were forced to pull out of the qualifiers regarding a possible tournament later this year.

“We have, so far, been engaging with the other member countries who also had to be pulled out of the tournament for similar reasons, and some for other reasons, and we are looking to have a sort of triangular tournament hopefully in November with St Lucia, St Vincent & the Grenadines, and Dominica,” he said.

“We are trying to assemble all the teams in one particular location, so that we could have a sort of tournament, and that all of these players who have been training towards this particular tournament don’t feel the downer in this whole situation.

“At the same time, we are looking also at coaches’ development and at this particular tournament or games [in November], we will be looking at the assessment of our coaches.”
CONCACAF reformatted the qualifying tournament to feature two groups of three teams and one group of four teams.

Group A comprises St Kitts & Nevis, United States Virgin Islands, and Suriname, Group B consists of Barbados, Curaçao and Belize, and Group C includes Honduras, Anguilla, Guyana, and Turks & Caicos Islands.

At the end of group stage play, the winner of each group and the best ranked second place finisher will advance to the 2022 CONCACAF Women’s U-17 Championship (CWU17).

The CWU17 is scheduled to take place in January next year, with the top ranked 16 teams participating in the group stage of the Championship playing i four groups.

After round-robin play, the top three teams in each group will advance to the Round of 16, joining the four teams from the qualifiers.

The winner, runner-up, and third place of the CWU17 will qualify for the 2022 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup scheduled to be played from October 11 to 30 next year in India.


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