Suspended Ricketts, Austin out of must-win game to make right call on referee appointment system
REGGAE Boyz coach Winfried Schafer says FIFA ought to revisit the process of referee appointments for crucial competitive games as a way to eliminate perceived conflicts of interest.
The German, who took over as Jamaica's senior head coach from Theodore "Tappa" Whitmore, was reacting to the Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez, who officiated in the Boyz' crucial CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match against hosts Panama on Friday night.
Schafer expressed concern that Guatemala was too, geographically, historically and culturally close to Panama, therefore appointing a referee to do a game against a nation from another geographical region divided by distance, language and culture could present an issue and would always be viewed with suspicion.
"I am not against the referee, but I want to make a point to FIFA that they put too much pressure on the referee... in our match against Panama we got a referee from Guatemala, and Guatemala is so close to Panama. Why couldn't we get a referee from Canada or the United States, that way nobody can say anything. There's too much pressure on the referee and it's a long time I have been in football some 40 years and it is the same thing," said Schafer.
After the match, which ended goal-less, where Lopez sent off Jamaica midfielder Rodolph Austin after a second yellow, and the issuance of two more only to Jamaican players Marlon King and goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, Jamaican journalists who attended the game thought the referee did a good job.
But don't tell that to the Leeds United captain Austin, who will miss the next match against Costa Rica on Tuesday at the National Stadium.
Schafer, meanwhile, was able to say that Bristol City's Marvin Elliott will more likely be the man filling the breach left vacant by Austin's suspension.
"I think Elliott played good in this position, and the way he played he was saying to me 'coach I am here', and he played well, he made good passes and he plays good with the head, and maybe he will play this position ," said the German, who had success with Cameroon national team. He will also need to replace Captain Donovan Ricketts, who picked up his second caution for the final round and is automatically suspended. His number two, Dwayne Miller, was forced out of last Friday's game due to an ankle injury, leaving Richard McCallum, Gariece McPherson and Jacomena Barrett to battle for the starting spot.
Schafer, the former German international, reminded his players that as a coach his job is difficult in selecting a starting 11, especially when there are quality players in the team, and he urged them further to put the team ahead of self.
"I have 23 players, and it's not easy (to select), as everybody wants to play... I was a player too, so I know what it's like. As the coach, when I pick 11 players, I am not happy, but the team is the most important thing... some players don't want to be on the bench, but when we have a good bench, we have a good team, a strong team, and I am sure everybody understands me," Schafer told the Jamaica Observer after Friday's match.
He will also have to grapple with selecting his three central defenders in his 3-5-2 formation with the suspended Crystal Palace man Adrian Mariappa available for selection. As they say, it's a good problem for a coach to have.
"For the next match, we have plenty of players and we may change; Mariappa comes back, we have Daniel Gordon and Wes Morgan, (Jermaine) Taylor and (Lloyd) Doyley, that's the situation," he said.
The Boyz went through their paces inside the National Stadium last night without Ricketts and Miller, but with the suspended Austin.
Meanwhile, the Costa Rican team is slated to arrive here at 2:10 pm today with 22 players, 10 support staff, and eight officials for their 7:00 pm date with the Boyz tomorrow.