- “I’m really proud first of all as a Grenadian that we qualified for this Gold Cup
- For just the third time in their history and the first since 2011, Grenada will appear at the Gold Cup.
- As the Director of Development for Concacaf, Roberts also sees how the Gold Cup impacts Concacaf’s NextPlay Program initiative.
MIAMI, Florida – For Concacaf Director of Development Jason Roberts, the 2021 Concacaf Gold Cup Draw will have a special feeling to it.
Serving as a Draw Assistant, the former Grenada international is eagerly awaiting to see which opponents Grenada will be drawn with on Monday night.
“A lot of people are excited about the Gold Cup. We are coming out of a difficult period for the world, but everyone has something to look forward to in the 2021 edition of the Gold Cup. We have teams that are participating for the first time, teams that haven’t been in it for a long time and a special guest [Qatar] as well. I think there’s been a focus on improving the competitive balance, making sure there are new opportunities for new teams, new experiences, and I for one am looking forward to the tournament and being part of the Draw,” said Roberts in an exclusive interview with Concacaf.com.
In particular, Roberts hailed the expanded format installed by Concacaf to allow three teams from a 12-team Preliminary Round to qualify for the Group Stage.
“I think we’ve had huge success with the Gold Cup, but we want to see how we can make it better, how can we make it innovative, how we can involve new things within that and I think the Prelims is another example of that. An additional 12 teams will have the chance to experience and participate in a Gold Cup atmosphere through the Preliminary Stage with those six seeded teams like Haiti, Guatemala, Guadeloupe, Bermuda. Of course, in Pot 1 we’ll have the likes of French Guiana, Guyana, Barbados, Montserrat, who are a great story from the Nations League, Bahamas. I think it’s going to add a lot to the competition and it’s an exciting and innovative way to grow the competition,” said Roberts.
For just the third time in their history and the first since 2011, Grenada will appear at the Gold Cup. Roberts can’t help but beam with pride to see the Spice Boys back in the tournament.
“I’m really proud first of all as a Grenadian that we qualified for this Gold Cup. I think it says a lot about the development of our football, the players that we have, the exciting and attacking football that we play. I think the Gold Cup is a great opportunity for us to showcase the quality that we have throughout the team, and for the young players it is a great chance to show what they can do on the biggest stage. I know in Grenada the whole country is captivated and very excited,” said Roberts.
After losing their first two matches of Concacaf Nations League Qualifying, Grenada have amassed an impressive 6W-2D-0L record in their last eight official matches, including a first-place finish in Group A of the 2019-20 CNL that qualified them for the Gold Cup. Roberts feels like Grenada have the tools to achieve something special next summer.
“Grenada started not so well, but then came good leadership and good work from the team and there was improvement. They got to the point that they weren’t losing games. You want to win games, but sometimes it is just as important not to lose games and they were drawing out some of these difficult games home and away. They have shown that they have that grit and determination to fight through difficult moments in games. I think anybody who sees Grenada coming out of Pot 3 in the group stage will be a little bit nervous because I think they can be the darkhorses of this competition,” said Roberts.
Roberts believes that the centralized version of the Prelims in the United States should make for an electric atmosphere.
“It will be great to have fans there mixing and mingling, but I think the way it is going to affect the countries watching and the interest to see many of these teams who never experience the Gold Cup will hopefully be transformative. Being a fan and watching your country perform, there is a great deal of pride. You see countries absolutely stop when you see these games going on. And from a player’s perspective, it’s a chance to mingle and see the quality that is among the sides that are there, to see the way other teams do things through that centralized platform. I think it’s going to make for an exciting experience for everybody,” said Roberts.
As the Director of Development for Concacaf, Roberts also sees how the Gold Cup impacts Concacaf’s NextPlay Program initiative, helping further avail opportunities for the rising generation of boys and girls in the region.
“I see so many storylines through the growth of this 2021 Gold Cup. You are seeing teams and countries who have invested in their environment, cultures and pathways into football. As a confederation, we have an important role to play in facilitating that and working with our Member Associations. You see it with countries like Montserrat, Bahamas, who I know have done so much work through the NextPlay Program, which is giving access to young people through the school system to play the sport. You see the likes of the U15 tournament and that we are the only confederation that has a U15 tournament. You see 14 and 15-year-old boys and girls get the opportunity to develop, see the quality of the Confederation and then progress into the U17s, U20s and now into the national teams. I am proud to see some of these young men performing at this level,” concluded Roberts.