President Jack Warner Speaks: "CONCACAF And The Challenges To Come"

Date Published: 

CONCACAF President Jack Warner of Trinidad and Tobago took the opportunity during the finals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup to talk about the status and objectives of one of FIFA's developing Confederations. Now 7 years into his presidency, a Vice President of FIFA and one of its most active Executive Committee members, Mr. Warner spoke first about the Gold Cup, the competition which he initiated shortly after taking office.

Q. What is the importance of the Gold Cup?

A. Before the Gold Cup, many of our national teams had little or no competition except qualifying games for the World Cup. Once they were eliminated, their national teams were often then disbanded, without games for as long as two and a half years until the next World Cup qualifying came along. Now there is cause and reason to maintain a national team throughout.

Q. What purpose does that serve?

A. We need to improve the standard of competitiveness of CONCACAF teams in world soccer. No CONCACAF team has moved into the later stages of the World Cup. Without constant competition, at ever higher levels, that will be a difficult hurdle to overcome. Consider the immediate benefits of this Gold Cup with three wonderful results against the world champions: draws for Jamaica and Guatemala, and a victory for the USA. Not only does this show that we are starting to build strength across the board but it again highlights what is happening in the Caribbean. It has been overlooked; a forgotten region in football. But Jamaica's progress in the World Cup and now the Gold Cup has changed all that.

Q. But is the Gold Cup, by itself, enough to achieve greater success at world level?

A. Absolutely not. I am impressing on all our countries that they must spend more time and resources - physical and financial - on helping young players develop. After all, any region which can produce Dwight Yorke, Paulo Wanchope and Kasey Keller, just to name three, at one time can produce more. It used to be unheard of to have CONCACAF players at the highest level in Europe, now it is commonplace.

Q. Now we hear of clubs being unhappy at having to release those players for the Gold Cup. What is the answer?

A. There has always been conflict between club and country and we do everything possible to mitigate the conflict - but clubs should be happy that we are producing players whom they want.

Q. What do you say to the comments that the Gold Cup is not an important competition?

A. It is as important to the countries of CONCACAF as the European Nations Cup is to Europe. The rigorous qualifying rounds also meant much to those of our countries which did not qualify; competition in the Caribbean for the Shell/Umbro Cup and in Central America for the UNCAF Trophy.

Q. Is there a similar effort to improve club competition throughout CONCACAF?

A. Our Champions Cup is now organized properly and professionally so that we can produce good competition and a true CONCACAF champion every year. Now our Cup-Winners Cup is starting out on the same path, with this year's finals in Dallas next month.

Q. And beyond that? Especially as you are chairman of the FIFA Committee for a world club championship?

A. Yes, we are working hard on this next FIFA initiative and, of course, it would give our club champion - and the club champions of the other developing continents - the same tough platform of competition and eventual improvement as the World Cup gives to our national teams.

Q. The next world event within CONCACAF is the FIFA Women's World Cup in the USA in 1999. Do you think it will be a success?

A. Yes, as big a success in its own way as the 1994 World Cup. With the dominant US women's team, women's soccer is one area where all our countries can look for inspiration within CONCACAF and not overseas.