Argentina, one of the most successful countries in the history of the FIFA World Cup, is coming on board to assist Barbados national Under-17 team in their quest to qualify for the 2026 competition.
With that particular team [Under-17] being used as the pilot project for the 2026 World Cup scheduled to play in the United States of America, Canada and Mexico respectively, Argentina ambassador to Barbados, Gustavo Pandiani, during an interview with the local press this past Sunday at the Argentinean Embassy, said his embassy was willing to partner with Barbados’ government in an effort to help the BFA prepare for the World Cup in eight years’ time.
Pandiani revealed that he and Barbados’ Minister of Sports John King had been in talks and would soon put their signatures to an agreement called Co-operation on Sports. This, Pandiani said, would give the talented Under-17 team an opportunity to visit Argentina and learn as much as they can. The diplomat has already been in talks with BFA president Randolph Harris and technical director Ahmed Mohammed.
“We are working with John on a very important project, which is taking the Under-17 national team to Argentina to train and to have like an educational and motivational trip. The idea is for them to get ready for the 2026 World Cup… That means three guys [countries] from CONCACAF are going to be out of the qualifiers, and that means more room for the Caribbean countries to go to the World Cup.
“I am working with Ahmed the coach, Randy Harris [president], in order to prepare a good trip for them [Under-17 team]. Today they are sixteen, seventeen-year-olds, so in eight years they are going to be in the prime age to play at the World Cup. And I have to tell you I’ve seen every game here and the best team you have is your under-17 team. We are going to do everything we can from the embassy to help.
“I had a meeting with Minister King and his sports division and now we are waiting for the formalities because it is an agreement between two countries. But it is going to be soon and with the agreement, we are going to put these two countries together,” Pandiani said.
Instead of 32 teams, the numbers will increase to 42 qualifying spot that will be up for grabs in 2026, as nations across the globe compete for a chance to feature in the most prestigious competition in football history. The Barbados national team will need all the professional help it can get if it is to stand any real chance of playing football at that level. Argentina have won two World Cup titles in 1978 and 1986 and have been runners-up three times in 1930, 1990 and most recently four years ago in 2014.
The South Americans will no doubt be able to share a vast amount of experience and knowledge with the Bajans, considering Barbados has never qualified for a world cup and will be vying for that 2026 qualifying spot against the likes of Trinidad and Tobago who qualified for the 2006 World Cup held in Germany and Jamaica Reggae Boys who did so back in 1998.
Barbados and Argentina have 50 years of diplomatic relations and Minister King said he wanted the island to have the best possible shot at qualifying for the World Cup.
“We have to look at the age that we get people involved in sports especially football. We have an under-17 team that is really doing well right now and I think the focus should be to make sure that in 2026 when the World Cup is here, that under-17 team is given the best opportunity to form our national team at that point in time and represent us at the World Cup,” King said.