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Set realistic goals: Benjamin says bi-annual World Cup does not mean automatic qualification

By Neto Baptiste

Head of the Liberta Sports Club, Kenneth Benjamin, has disagreed that a bi-annual FIFA World Cup will benefit the smaller footballing nations including Antigua and Barbuda.

Technical director for football here, Sowerby Gomes, recently spoke favourably of the intended change, stating that it offers more opportunities for players to showcase their talent on a global stage.

Benjamin said the real focus should be on dominating the game at the sub-regional and regional levels.

“We have to dominate Leeward Islands football, the sub-region, CONCACAF and in the Gold Cup and so on, and we haven’t done any of those things. It is a phase and I just believe that a lot of people hear two years for every World Cup and they think, ‘what, maybe it’s a good chance for us to qualify’. Qualify what? We need to start to look at biting off a small piece at a time,” he said. 

In a recent communique to its members, FIFA announced its plans to go ahead with holding the World Cup every two years, despite widespread opposition to the idea.

The plans, which have been publically fronted by Arsene Wenger, also include a shortening of the qualification process as well as a reduction in the amount of international breaks held during the club season.

Benjamin, who’s Liberta Blackhawks are the national football champions, said the focus should be on reform.

“Restructuring and planning, that has to come first. We have to assess as we go along, we must have a plan, whether it’s a 20-year plan or what but we need to bite off bits by bits or a mouthful at a time, chew it properly and then we digest and see if we need to change the ingredients and those sort of stuff so I think we have a long way to go to start competing even in the region and this is my personal thing, I think we need to take us getting to a World Cup out of our heads for now,” he said.

Gomes, during his interview, said that following a meeting with the FIFA committee charged with promoting the bi-annual World Cup, he is convinced that the concept is a solid one that could improve the game’s appeal.

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