Trinidad & Tobago goalkeeper Shaka Hislop (right) states his case during a World Cup qualifier against Mexico on September 5, 2001, in Mexico City. (Photo: Mexsport)
MIAMI BEACH, Florida -- The initial details of an agreement announced Thursday between CONCACAF and CONMEBOL for the organization of Centennial Cup America (Copa America Centenario) 2016, which will be played the United States, prompted a positive reaction from a respected football authority.
Former Trinidad & Tobago international Shaka Hislop, who made two appearances at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, believes that the prospect of taking part in such a high-level competition will stimulate football’s growth in the Caribbean.
“To have guaranteed Caribbean representation, at the very least one team, possibly more, it is an exciting development for football in the region,” said Hislop, now a well-regarded football analyst for ESPN. “To have our teams participate at this big a stage is as monumental as 1998 had been for Jamaica and in 2006 for Trinidad & Tobago.”
The next Caribbean champion, to be decided through the 2014 Caribbean Cup, will secure one of CONCACAF’s six berths in the tournament.
Cuba is the current titleholder, defeating Trinidad, 1-0, in the 2012 final.
The Trinidadians hold the overall record with eight championships, but they haven’t lifted the trophy since 2001. Jamaica is second with five crowns.
Hislop believes the fact that participation needs to be merited will be beneficial.
“The region has to step up and this ticks all the boxes,” he declared. “You have to earn your right to share this big a stage.”
The 45-year-old, though, is looking at the bigger picture of player development and how the Centennial Cup America can play a role in facilitating that process.
“As small a region as we are, if you look at our history, some of the players we’ve developed and had represented us on the world stage, Theodore Whitmore, Dwight Yorke, names go one, but things have stagnated somewhat partially because we haven’t had the opportunities to perform at this type of level,” Hislop concluded. “Hopefully, we will now have household names come from the region.
“Playing in the Copa America is a great step forward.”