The first step to set up a Caribbean Professional Football League has been made and already, it has become a sweet sound in some ears.
Concacaf on Wednesday announced the formation of a Caribbean Professional League working group, with the support of world football’s governing body, FIFA. When the current public health situation allows, the group will discuss its feasibility.
Selected among the group is Central FC owner and acting chairman of the TT Pro League, Trinidadian Brent Sancho. Both he and fellow T&T club owner Jamaal Shabazz see having its own professional league as a great step for Caribbean football.
The group will carry out a comprehensive study of Caribbean professional club football. Its chairman is also the chair of the Concacaf Competitions Committee, Yon de Luisa and its vice-chairman is Caribbean Football Union (CFU) president Randolph Harris.
The members will be Sancho (T&T), Christopher Samuda (Jamaica), Patrick Massenat (Haiti), Manuel Estrella (Dominican Republic), Valdemar Florentino Marcha (Curaçao) and a FIFA representative. With two previous incarnations of a Caribbean league having failed, no one sees it as an easy task to revitalise the Caribbean club game.
“It will have its challenges,” Sancho said, adding that the picture will become clearer once the stakeholders meet.
“The most important thing is that they have put together a task force that is mandated to bring this to fruition,” he added.
“The feasibility of a Caribbean professional league has previously been explored by regional stakeholders. However, for a combination of reasons, those attempts did not get beyond the point of an early draft, with little substance and no progress made on the matter,” Concacaf president Victor Montagliani said, adding: “The time is right for the Caribbean and Concacaf, with the support of FIFA, to lead the way to develop a comprehensive study which has the sole aim of the development of football in the Caribbean and the region as a whole.”
Shabazz is all for a Caribbean pro league. The former national men’s and women’s head coach believes it can work this time, once given the full support of Concacaf and FIFA.
“The Caribbean needs a league to take care of his own. The full support of Concacaf could be a big difference this time. Before it mainly had only the support of people in CFU,” he stated.
Shabazz has shown a long love for the Caribbean game, having coached the T&T, Guyana and St Lucia national men’s teams and having employed no fewer than 70 players from 10 Caribbean countries, including 29 from Guyana and 16 from St Lucia at his Morvant Caledonia United club over the years, along with players from Argentina, Ghana, Botswana, Panama and Brazil.
Among those Caribbean players were Guyanese internationals Charles Pollard, Howard Lowe, Sheldon Holder, Trayon Bobb and Walter Moore; St Lucians Tev and Otev Lawrence, Sheldon Emmanuel and Lester Joseph; St Vincent & the Grenadines’ Kendall Velox, Dwayne Sandy and Cornelius Stewart; Grenadians Kithson Bain and Shemel Louison; Jamaican Kevin Graham; Odell Flemming of St Kitts/Nevis and Antiguan Kareem Knight.
“I was always the Caribbean man,” Shabazz boasted. “The life of Caledonia shows that we always feel people of the region should get together.”
With less T&T players in US Major League Soccer (MLS) and Europe, Shabazz thinks the establishment of Caribbean professional football would fill a huge void.
“The better players from the country can play in the Caribbean league and the best of the best can go out to Europe and other overseas leagues,” he said. “And those who can’t make the Caribbean league can play in the local leagues. It’s a dynamic step to create employment and create an industry for football in the Caribbean,” he said.
SOURCE: T&T Express