NASSAU, Bahamas — Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Captain Horace Burrell says the exhibition game between the World Cup-chasing Reggae Boyz and Tottenham Hotspur here in May will be an "exciting affair".
The JFF boss said the match-up, which will be played on the 23rd of the month, marks the official opening of the new Thomas A Robinson National Stadium and The Bahamas 40th year of Independence celebrations.
In addition, the event will provide a unique opportunity for the people of The Bahamas to witness high-quality football. More importantly though, he said, the game will provide crucial warm-up for the Boyz ahead of their CONCACAF World Cup return-leg encounter against Mexico in Kingston on June 4.
"This will be a game to remember, and let me tell you that Jamaica will have its best players available for the game, and the people of The Bahamas can rest assured that the game will be an exciting one from start to finish," said Burrell at an official launch of the match at the newly built 15,000-capacity stadium in Nassau.
Also, with vigorous ticket sales for the match already taking place, Burrell warned locals to get their tickets early as he is made to understand that Tottenham fans are expected to travel in great numbers to the island state for the match.
"If you want to see this game, you should get your tickets now... fans will be coming in from England and all over, plus we will try to organise charters to carry Jamaican fans to support the Boyz and for them to get a chance to see Spurs stars on display," noted Burrell.
Director of football administration at the English Premier League side, Darren Eales, said Tottenham grabbed the opportunity to engage the Jamaica national side, which is a rare match-up in the footballing world.
"For Tottenham it's a great opportunity to play against top opposition and as the Captain explained that sort of thing doesn't happen for obvious reasons, and also it provides an opportunity for our squad to test their technical ability," said the Englishman.
"Also, it gives our players a chance to come away to this wonderful climate and country and to rest and look back at the season. From a player's perspective, they are excited, and who wouldn't be..." said Eales.
Minister of Sport Dr Daniel Johnson said while there will be economic benefits, it would not be easy to quantify, but noted that the game fits into a renewed thrust by his government to use sport as an economic driver.
"It's difficult to quantify as there will be a direct and an indirect spend. The direct spend is that we know what the revenue from the game will be, but more importantly, it takes us now into the realms of hosting international tournaments and events," he told the Jamaica Observer.
President of the Bahamas Football Association Anton Sealy has been busy deflecting flak from some quarters of society who have frowned upon the decision to have the Boyz engage Tottenham and not their own national team for such a significant occasion.
"We have come under great criticism, but we must realise that the event is driven by Tottenham and they wanted to engage a competitive side, and if you look at the FIFA rankings, we are at 170 something and Jamaica is ranked in the 50s.
"Also, we think that we could assist Jamaica with their preparation for their World Cup qualifying match against Mexico, and we are all Caribbean and their success will be our success," said Sealy.
The football executive said a glamour match of this nature would no doubt trigger a wave of new interest in the sport, as the Bahamas football suffers at the popularity polls with the country's closeness to the USA where kids are more likely to be drawn to American football, baseball and basketball.
"Part of it is to expose our kids to a high level of football to get them interested in the sport, as kids are not taking to the sport the way we would like, as they mostly play it as recreation. We want them to see that this game can lead to professional opportunities. Once they see this high level of competition, there will be a renewed interest in the game," said Sealy.
The new Thomas A Robinson Stadium, built with a combined spend of US$50 million between the Chinese and The Bahamas governments, will in a few weeks host the Carifta Games.