We applaud Whitmore and the Boyz

Saturday, February 03, 2018

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The Reggae Boyz's recent 2-2 draw with South Korea in Turkey was an extremely satisfying result for Jamaica's football.

The Jamaicans, ranked 55, were up against a South Korea squad that is headed for the FIFA World Cup in Russia in the summer and has been preparing together for a very long time while fighting its way through the crucible of Asia's World Cup qualifiers.

The Reggae Boyz were in Turkey not only for that international friendly against South Korea, but also on a mission to provide experience and exposure to young Jamaican talent. Indeed, a few days prior to the game against the Koreans, a youthful Reggae Boyz squad, playing before a number of club scouts from across Europe, drew 1-1 with Romanian club CS Gaz Metan Medias.

The 20-member squad had just six overseas-based professionals — all operating in North American leagues — among them the seasoned standouts Messrs Kemar Lawrence and Je-Vaughn Watson. The others operate in Jamaica's premier league, which has often drawn criticism in terms of its standard.

We gather from Mr Sean Williams, who gave comprehensive coverage of the Turkish trip for this newspaper, that several young players, including striker Mr Maalique Foster and goalkeeper Mr Amal Knight were outstanding. In fact, Mr Foster scored on international debut against South Korea — an achievement which places him in esteemed company. He also netted the lone goal in the lower-ranked clash with the Romanian club.

As we applaud the players, this newspaper also takes great pleasure in pointing to yet another feather in the cap for Mr Theodore Whitmore, who is continuing to show growth as national coach. Just as he did in guiding a lowly rated Jamaica squad to the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament last year, Mr Whitmore was tactically superb in the recent friendly.

It's one thing to compete with highly rated football sides when the available players are hardened professionals with plenty of experience and expertise. It's quite another when those under your command are semi-pro at best and are struggling to find their feet.

We do not believe we are overstating the case in arguing that Mr Whitmore is showing admirable consistency in being able to step up and punch above his weight class.

We note the endorsement from Mr Whitmore's assistant in Turkey, Mr Donovan Duckie, that: “I think he (Mr Whitmore) is one of the smartest Jamaican coaches I have ever seen,” and further that, “This is a person we need to trust, believe in, and go forward with.”

Mr Whitmore is established as being, without question, among Jamaica's finest footballers of all time. Many would argue that for his accomplishments in Jamaica's World Cup qualifying tournament in the 1990s and his two goals in victory over Japan in 1998 in France, Mr Whitmore has no equal.

If, as national coach, he gets anywhere close to his record as a player, Mr Whitmore will have done himself and his country extremely proud.

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