Jamalco celebrate Confed title amid violent scenes at the Oval
THAT'S not how Jamalco imagined the final scene of their victory would play out. But they don't really mind. The outcome is what really counts. They are champions of the South Central Confederation Super Eight Championship after emerging 2-1 victors in a hugely controversial final at the Spanish Town Prison Oval this past Sunday.
They defeated St Catherine side DB Basovak and will now represent the region in the National Premier League play-off.
It's their biggest achievement since the idea to start a football team — managed by the Clarendon-based alumina company Jamalco — took shape four seasons ago.
"We are very elated," beamed team manager Ewan Scott. "This fits into our earlier communication that our number one focus is to get to the National Premier League. We are one step closer to that dream." But on Sunday night, minutes past seven, that was not how they felt.
"There was a lot of concern," Scott admitted, "because unlike other incidents where only the officials are targeted, we also came under attack.
"When everything started I gathered the team to one side of the field, but then a group of Basovak players and some of their supporters moved towards us. Thankfully, another set of their supporters and some players came over and told them to leave the (Jamalco) players alone because they didn't do anything."
Scott was talking about the events that unfolded not too long after their talented young striker Roshane Sharpe had restored their one-goal advantage with a stunning right-footed free-kick deep into extra-time.
DB Basovak, searching for an equaliser that would have sent the game to penalty kicks, launched a last-gasp attack but were
The first setback was down to poor finishing from their centre forward, whose shot (placed too high) deflected off an opponent and hit the cross-bar on its way out of play for a corner kick. From the resulting corner, they would suffer another setback -- the one that eventually proved too heart-rending for their supporters to take.
This time Basovak, benefiting from a mêlée, actually got the ball into the net, but no sooner did the players turn away in celebration than the referee, who initially pointed up-field for what appeared to be a goal, reversed his decision and awarded a free kick to Jamalco, whose goalkeeper was deemed to be fouled in the build-up to
With Basovak protesting the disallowed goal and the referee trying to restore calm, the game was stopped for about 10 minutes. And it was around that time that the first set of glass bottles were tossed onto the field. However, they were quickly removed and the game restarted.
But realising that the referee was intent on disallowing the goal, more bottles rained down on the field. This time, they came much faster and in greater numbers and aimed specifically at the match officials.
It did not take long, however, for the Jamalco team, huddled to one side of the field, and the executives of the South Central Confederation, who sat under the VIP booth which is situated just before the main stands at the side of the pitch, to feel the wrath of the angry Basovak supporters.
"Except for one player who got hit on the field, no one was hurt," said Scott. "So, even though it is belated, I must say thank you to the group of Basovak supporters and the players who came to our defence."
He added: "I am not sure what time we left the venue, but we were escorted by the police out of Spanish Town."
Meanwhile, chairman of the South Central Confederation Michael Ricketts has announced that DB Basovak will face the Disciplinary Committee of the Jamaica Football Federation following Sunday night's incident.
The Confed further noted that, with only two minutes remaining in the contest when the referee brought an end to the game, Jamalco have been awarded the match and will now advance to the National Premier League play-off where they will battle with Reno, Barbican and Axum for the two available slots in next season's Red Stripe Premier League.
"It was an up-and-down season," admitted the Jamalco coach, Ryan Johnson. "We lost the Major League, but instead of dropping their shoulders the players decided they would go all-out for the Super League. I would say they were self-motivated because they really wanted it."
Team manager Scott added that, as a club, they are determined to put Sunday night's incident behind them, even as they begin preparation for the next stage of their journey.
"Everybody is now in high spirits," he noted. "As an incentive we sent them to the Red Stripe Premier League final on Monday night.
"Our focus is now on the next six games in the play-offs and we will be looking to finish in the top two in order to secure our place in the Premier League."