Sport

Destined for great things

Kemar ‘Taxi’ Lawrence hits high gear on tour with Reggae Boyz

IAN BURNETT ON TOUR REGGAE BOYZ

Monday, June 09, 2014    

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LILLE, France — ‘The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,’ is an idiom that could be used to describe Jamaica’s leftwing back Kemar Lawrence. Or, if you prefer, ‘a chip off the old block’, could also suffice.

Lawrence, the flying 21- year-old left-sided Harbour View defender, who is popularly called ‘Taxi’, is creating a storm here on the Reggae Boyz’s glamour four-game friendly international series, which culminated at the Stade Pierre Mauroy yesterday with an enticing encounter against 1998 World Cup champions France.

In that game, Jamaica were embarrassingly beaten 7-0 to the Brazilbound Europeans. With yesterday’s beating aside, such has been ‘Taxi’s’ impressive ‘runs’ against European heavyweights Serbia and Switzerland, and Africa’s Egypt, that many believe it is just a matter of time before he departs Jamaica’s shores for bright lights of foreign motorways.

But is appears that is it not by accident that ‘Taxi’ is developing into a fine Jamaican international footballer. He seems destined to follow into his late father’s footstep. His dad, Orville Edwards, was considered by many as one of Jamaica’s greatest ever goalkeepers, and young Lawrence is now ready to bare his soul on that front, proudly representing his family.

“It is serious, he’s my dad,” Lawrence shared with the Jamaica Observer. “My mom tends to keep it on a low, but he’s my real father. I told her that I was going to change my name and she said fine, because he’s my father so anything I want to do, I should.

“I definitely have a lot of respect for him and I know almost all his children, I know all my brothers, we have good relationships, so I really want to change my name, though it won’t be for now, it might be in a couple years’ time, but I definitely will change my name.

The family is still together, I know them, they know me and everyone accepts me, so everything is good.” Lawrence is enjoying his fine form on tour and his coach and teammates are singing his praises.

“This player is an investment for Jamaica, but he needs our help, not only from the national coaches, but help from the club coaches and then he will have a chance for the future, not in one, two or three months, that is clear, but for the future, and it would encourage our local players to play better,” was head coach Winfried Schafer’s immediate thoughts on the player.

“I think he is a player with a chance to play in Europe, maybe not a regular in the first time, or if he gets the time to grow and learn. I hope a team from Europe saw him against Egypt, Switzerland or against Serbia. He played all three matches and played very well.

He has good fitness, speed, and a very good boy. He’s young and this player can give more (get better), but he needs more training every day, not three or four days of the week but every day. Not fitness, but tactics and knowledge of the game,” added the German.

The coach conceded that he thought Lawrence was a good prospect for the future when he saw Harbour View play in the Red Stripe Premier League for the first time. “I took him into our group and told him he has to learn, watch the overseas-based players and work harder.

He has everything, speed, good spirit and he’s very intelligent in the field.” As he awaits that lifechanging moment of an overseas contract, Lawrence is content to accept the adulations pouring his way.

“I’m feeling great so far, the team really appreciates every bit of work that I have put in so far and I appreciate the team as well, and everyone is working together, so I really feel great. “They (players) have been telling me that I am doing great and I should really try to keep up the good work because something is there for me in the near future, that has been the response I’ve been getting from them so far.”

He has had to contend with some skilful attackers in these three games, including Bayern Munich’s Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland, and Egypt’s Chelsea player Mohamed Salah. And to his credit, he has enhanced his reputation as a feisty wide defender who is solid in defence, and on offence.

“I have been coping well, but they are pretty fast and skilled, so I can’t rush in (to tackle) I have to keep my eyes on the ball more and not watch their feet because they are pretty skilled and sometimes their foot movements tend to catch your eyes, but I just stick to the role that I know I’m supposed to play, keep my eyes on the ball, keep tracking them, try my best not to give them too much space... I’m a quick player as well, so I run 50-50 with them most of the times,” he offered.

His central defensive partners, Wes Morgan, Birmingham City’s captain, and Adrian Mariappa, from Crystal Palace, both from the Barclays Premier League in England, have been highly impressed by the youngster’s performances to date.

Said Morgan: “From the first time I’ve played with him, I have been impressed so far. I was impressed against Switzerland, how he dealt with Shaqiri, who is a major player for Bayern Munich, and the way he handled him.

It is like he has been playing against this type of opposition all his career, so I’ve been very impressed so far.” Mariappa chipped in: “I’ve obviously played with him in a few squads now and I think he’s got a bright future, a lot of potential, he’s got all the physical attributes needed to play at the top level at his position.

“Technically, he’s very good, he understands the game and his attitude is spot on. He wants to listen, he wants to learn and I think if he carries on the way he’s playing, he will go very far.” Mariappa admitted that he enjoys playing with the young player.

“I’ll give him information on the pitch and he would take it on. He would talk back to me and give me information, which is good for his age, and I like playing with him next to me. I’m comfortable playing next to him and that’s a credit to him, and I hope he can carry on his good form and keep progressing.”

Lawrence told the Observer that he feels the love of his more experienced teammates, as well. “Although they are English players we tend to laugh a lot, we tend to run jokes and I would say the relationship with them is very good. We talk a lot during lunch breaks, and on the pitch it is even better because they keep directing me.

They never stop calling ‘Taxi’, so they tend to keep me in the game even at times when I kind of slip up a little, they try to build me up.” Meanwhile, the player noted that he was willing to take everything on board and learn as much as possible to improve his game, as he conceded that the game at this level is a lot different from what obtains in Jamaica.

“The fields are far better so the ball moves faster on them and sometimes it looks like the players are running faster, but it is not really the players, it is due to how fast the ball moves and the players get into that space quicker, so I think the field has a lot to do with the quality of the game that we play in Jamaica.”

He added: “The quality of the players is great and you can see that they have the best facilities and training by just the way they move on the field, because their touch most of the times is 99 per cent good, their body movement, how they talk on the field and how they respond, everything is just great and I think these teams have been really high quality, but we are performing as well, and are unlucky that we never got a victory.”

In relation to his immediate future and a possible move abroad, ‘Taxi’ is keeping his ‘doors’ open to all possibilities, and he would only share that his agent has indeed informed him that people are “seeing me” and they “like what they see and they want me to continue, and hopefully from there we can move forward”, he ended.

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