"--IANS/CMC"
Kingston (Jamaica), May 25 (IANS/CMC) Jamaican football team has been invited to participate in next year's Copa America, local federation president Horace Burrell said.

The highly popular tournament is usually played among top tier national teams such as Brazil, Argentina and Chile but the South American Confederation (CONMEBOL) has in the past extended invitations to teams from other regions, reports CMC.

Burrell, a CONCACAF vice-president, said the invitation reflected the strength of the country's football brand.

Our neighbours in CONCACAF, and even football regions further afield, have recognised Jamaica's potential in football. I think people are taking notice of our organisation and our broader development efforts as a football-playing nation, he told the Jamaica Observer newspaper Saturday.

Once we can work out some issues that impede the rate of our progress - like the poor playing surfaces that our youngsters have to play on -- then we will be on our way.

There's no doubt about the talent that is available to us, and there are those who admire the uniqueness of our athleticism, so really it's just a matter of time before Jamaica's football explodes, and there are those who believe in this potential.

He added: Also, I believe that Jamaica is an team admired by others out there, so too is Brand Jamaica which is a pull to those on the outside.

According to Burrell, Jamaica will be joined by Mexico as the two teams from CONCACAF which will do battle next year in the 44th edition of the tournament scheduled for Chile.

The development comes just weeks after CONCACAF and CONMEBOL announced that six national teams from CONCACAF would be included in the centennial edition of the Copa America scheduled for the United States in 2016.

In fact, the winners of this year's Caribbean Cup in Jamaica will gain automatic qualification to the 2016 Copa America. This means Jamaica could compete in the tournament for the next two years.

There are some exciting times ahead for Jamaica's football, and what's sweet about this all, is that Jamaica will have a second chance to play against top-class South American opposition in the Centennial Copa America, said Burrell.

For Jamaica to earn an automatic berth to that tournament in 2016, all they have to do is to win the Caribbean Cup that will be staged in Montego Bay this November. So these are great opportunities for Jamaica to lift its profile in the realms of football and we do intend as a Federation to take full advantage.

--IANS/CMC

sr/vt


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