Lamentation, congratulations and hope
EVEN as we lament the Reggae Boyz's failure to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Brazil next year, we must congratulate those who made it from the CONCACAF region.
The United States, Costa Rica and Honduras earned the three automatic qualifying spots with consistent and, at times, high quality football. This newspaper believes they will represent the Caribbean, Central American and North American region with distinction.
Incredibly, Mexico, for decades the kingpins of football in CONCACAF, placed fourth in the Round of Six. The Mexicans must now beat Oceana champions New Zealand in home-and-away fixtures next month to earn a place in Brazil.
Panama — a country with which Jamaica has strong historical links — deserve our sympathy. The Panamanians were celebrating what seemed a certain fourth place finish, with just a couple of minutes remaining, when the United States scored twice in time added to hand the Central Americans a 3-2 defeat and leave them out of contention in fifth place.
That Mexico ended up in the play-off spot, and within a whisker of being out of the top four altogether, confirms a trend that has been gradually taking hold over the last 10 to 15 years. It is that football at the country level in the CONCACAF region is levelling off. It is no longer a 'walk in the park' for the traditional 'big teams' such as Mexico and USA.
The days when countries such as Jamaica, Panama, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, and Cuba could be taken for granted are gone.
We make bold to say that, in the recent campaign, the Reggae Boyz were let down not because of an inadequacy of quality, but by lax organisation, planning and focus.
The result was that until the arrival of Mr Winfried Schafer as head coach, with Jamaica retaining only a slim mathematical chance of qualifying, the national team seemed disjointed at best.
Most knowledgeable observers agree that, under Mr Schafer, the Reggae Boyz improved with every game in terms of organisation and tactical execution.
Mr Schafer may well have been assisted by the fact that he is new to the Jamaican environment and therefore was unencumbered by conscious or unconscious prejudices in making his selections. It would have helped immensely that he is a highly respected and vastly experienced professional who presumably also knows his own mind.
Mr Schafer and the Jamaica Football Federation seem anxious to agree terms for continuation of his tenure with a view to the 2018 World Cup. For the good of Jamaican football we hope it works out.