Downswell to the rescue
Veteran men's coach summoned to help Girlz in Dom Rep
Sanjay Myers with REGGAE GIRLZ @ the cfu world cup qualifiers in the dominican republic
SAN CRISTOBAL, Dominican Republic — The Jamaica management staff has moved to explain the absence of Reggae Girlz assistant coach Tamera Williams from the contingent here, pointing to the United States declining her visa application.
The Jamaica team is in the Dominican Republic for the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women's qualifiers and came here directly from Florida, where they had a two-week pre-tournament camp under the guidance of head coach Merron Gordon.
Without the required document, the 37-year-old Williams, an ex-national women's player, who attended Lindsey Wilson College in the US state of Kentucky for four years, could not make the trip to the camp.
In addition, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) opted not to fly her to the tournament through a different route, though she was announced back in February of this year — with much fanfare — as deputy to Gordon.
Elaine Walker-Brown, the manager of the national senior women's team, confirmed the visa denial, while adding that Williams's replacement, the much-travelled Wendell Downswell, offers vast experience and is a welcome asset.
"I was not in Jamaica at the time, but I was told that they (members of the contingent) went to the embassy and she was not granted a US visa to travel," she told the Jamaica Observer.
"Coach Downswell was brought in to fill that position. Having Coach Downswell is a blessing in disguise because we know he has a lot to offer. He is a teacher, he is very knowledgeable of the game and he is very business-like. We are just glad to know that he was able to take up this at very short notice to replace Tamera."
Also in February, Downswell, who has twice led the National Under-17 Reggae Boyz to the World Cup, was named Youth Co-ordinator for male and female teams.
At the Estadio Panamericano, during the senior Reggae Girlz' first training session since arriving in the Dominican Republic, Downswell and Gordon appeared comfortable sharing ideas with each other.
Downswell told the Observer he relished the opportunity to work alongside the younger Gordon.
"I'm quite upbeat, especially being here with coach Gordon, one of my students. I'm here in a sort of technical advisor capacity. The girls have responded in a very positive way and as you can see, the training session was quite spirited and we look for positive things henceforth," the veteran coach said.
The Jamaicans face Group 5 opponents St Lucia tomorrow before clashing with the hosts Dominican Republic on Sunday. The top team in the group will automatically advance to the CFU Women's Cup Finals to be held in Trinidad & Tobago in August.
If Jamaica progress, they are likely to have another preparation camp in the US and again Williams could be left on the outside looking in.
So what plans do the JFF have for her?
"Despite not getting the visa from the US embassy, she has a lot to offer and she has a lot to learn. We embrace Tamera because she is a former national [player], she was at school in the States and was three-time All-American player, so we think Tamera can add some value as a female coach to the programme. We hope in the near future the whole thing will not discourage her, but that she will continue working with the programme," Walker-Brown said.