MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Supporters of Jamaica's sport teams are renowned for being uncompromising. However, Reggae Boy Joel 'Jobi' McAnuff, is hoping that everybody will fall in line in strong, unwavering support of the team not just when they face the mighty Mexicans here at the Azteca Stadium tomorrow night, but throughout the entire campaign.
"Hopefully they will be very supportive of everybody in the squad," McAnuff, the 31-year-old Reading Football Club captain told the Jamaica Observer here at the team's Radisson Paraiso Hotel yesterday.
"I think that's the key for me. It's not necessarily where players are from or where they play, it's about being one team and achieving a goal for Jamaica, which is getting to the World Cup... if everyone's behind that, then good. I'm a big believer in positive energy and people being behind a movement and being together, that's the management, playing staff, everybody around a specific team.
"I believe that if you have that positivity and togetherness then you can't fail. I've been in a lot of teams in my career and when you've got that spirit and togetherness, there's nothing you can't overcome," added McAnuff, who made his debut for Jamaica as a 20-year-old on May 18, 2002 against Nigeria in a friendly international in London.
Then McAnuff entered the field as a 55th-minute substitute for striker Kevin Lisbie in the 0-1 loss to the Super Eagles, in a game featuring then teammates Omar Daley, and present head coach Theodore Whitmore.
Carl Brown, then technical director designate, had high praises for the youngster. Said he: "Young Jobi was very, very impressive. He was lively, he had energy and at 20, he really will be one of the future players for Jamaica."
McAnuff, too, was pleased with his performance then. "The experience was very good, I thought... obviously we lost but considering the result the other day, I think we would've taken a 0-1 result, but we played with a lot of heart and everyone gave their best today, so i think everyone can be happy that we gave our all really."
It has been more than 10 years on and McAnuff, more popularly called Jobi, is now vastly experienced, as evidenced by his leadership at the Premiership club.
He's elated at the second chance to build an international career.
"Yeah, great you know, it's been a long time coming, it's been 10 years since I last played for Jamaica, so I've been very excited about the prospects of joining up. It's been a little bit of an ongoing process, I've been in good contact with the coach and Captain Burrell (Horace) and we've got to the point now where I'm involved and I'm really looking forward to the challenge."
But like when he first represented Jamaica, without the benefit of a practice session behind him, Jobi will restart his international career in another tricky situation, with just two training sessions prior to the game.
In 2002 the Reggae Boyz had faced the USA in a friendly international on May 16, then travel to London after that match to face Nigeria on May 18.
"It's a factor and it's probably not ideal, but it is what it is and that's the situation we're faced with," Jobi reasoned.
"We can look at it as a negative thing and get drawn on that, or look at it as a challenge and I think that's the way we've got to do it, from the game on Wednesday (tomorrow) and for the rest of the qualifiers," he said in a philosophical outlook.
"It is hurdles that we have to overcome and that's one of them, so I have every faith that we have a lot of good players here and great quality in the squad and hopefully come together Wednesday (tomorrow night) and put in a good performance, as I said, it is something we have just have to deal with."
The Reggae Boyz held a team meeting just before lunch yesterday and Jobi revealed that it was just to officially integrate the new faces.
"That's fine, we pretty much met everybody last night (Sunday night) except a few who came in late, so it was just a general introduction for those we didn't see last night, but we are fairly aware of everybody in the squad and over time we'll be able to get to know each other better. The boys have been very accommodating, as have the staff, and that made us feel very welcome straight away, so obviously a nice environment to come into.
"We are itching to get out there, it's been a long journey over, we have had a little rest now and I'm ready to go, so I'm looking forward to it," he added ahead of the team's first training session.
McAnuff said there was "great excitement" from everybody, especially those who travelled together from the UK. "We have been talking about it even before we left England, because we know each other from home, so I think that will help coming into the group, and for me it's a real overwhelming feeling of excitement and we can't wait to get started. We are here now and it is a team mentality for us, and we just want to get a good start on Wednesday."
Jobi said that the players are very cognizant of the challenges that await, starting tomorrow night.
"In terms of Mexico they are really a very good team, top team, who have qualified for major tournaments consistently over the years, so we know what we will be facing, and for us we just need to make sure we go out there and are solid, make it difficult for them, as you have to do when you are playing against big teams, and not let them have it their own way.
"I think if we can frustrate them a little bit and then work our way into the game then that will probably be the way to go, and obviously the altitude is something again, but what can you do? We are where we are and they are a little bit more used to it, but a few of their guys are playing abroad, so that's a short turn-around for them as well, so it is something to deal with, and the staff here, the doctor and all the other staff are making sure we are as prepared as we can be once we get out there, but it is part of the challenge."
And with the big picture of possibly qualifying for the Brazil World Cup Finals, Jobi said.
"It doesn't get much better than that, Jamaica going to Rio... you know growing up very much like my father, who is obviously Jamaican through and through and very proud, Jamaica is a massive part of my life, and seeing the effect from 98 and the guys (from England) being involved at the time, growing up around football had a massive effect on the whole of Jamaica and the Reggae Boyz, not just the exposure that it brought to the country and the fans, but just the images from that World Cup, for me still very vivid, so to try and be a part of recreating that in Rio would be something special, and is definitely a big draw in terms of coming and being involved, so that's the aim and it is something that I'm sure will drive us on in this campaign."