Young Boyz get taste of the Azteca
MEXICO City, Mexico — Jamaica's National Under-20 footballers paid a visit to the famed Estadio Azteca on Tuesday night to watch their senior Reggae Boyz counterparts put the final touches to their practice session.
Led by captain Omar Holness, the young Boyz, who arrived in the North American country earlier in the day in two batches, along with head coach Luciano Gama and manager Howard Bell, used the opportunity to soak up the history of the huge 105,000-capacity venue which has hosted two World Cup finals in 1970 and 1986.
Apart from using their phones to take pictures among themselves and with the senior Reggae Boyz while walking the pitch, they were given an impromptu lecture by Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Captain Horace Burrell and General Secretary Raymond Grant.
Meanwhile, the Under-20s are here for a near two-week training camp ahead of the CONCACAF Under-20 Final Round of Qualifiers, courtesy of the Mexican Football Federation. Its President Justino Compean, who visited the senior Reggae Boyz's team hotel to personally welcome Captain Burrell on Tuesday, told the Jamaica Observer that he sought to help Jamaica out of the friendship with the JFF and as part of developing football in the region.
"We have a great relationship, friendship with Captain Burrell, and every time we go to Jamaica it is the same thing, they are kind to us, and I think that in CONCACAF that is something that is not known," he said.
"As long as you get along with the presidents of the different federations it is better for us all, you know, we are rivals for only 90 minutes, but we have to work together for the development of football in CONCACAF, so we have to have the best of Jamaica in Mexico and the best of Mexico in Jamaica when we visit each other," he added.
The young Boyz are being accommodated by the Mexican Federation, who has agreed to provide meals and lodging for a 23-man delegation for the camp, which will hopefully get the players acclimatised to the high altitude, as well as get in some much-needed practice ahead of the Group C preliminary assignments against Puerto Rico on February 19, and Panama four days later. They are being housed at one of the government-owned dorms at a complex which was used as the Athletes' Village for the 1968 Olympics, and already practice games against the US have been slated for February 10 and 12.
The tournament ends on March 2, with the top-four teams advancing to the Under-20 World Cup finals slated for Turkey in the summer.
"It was easy to make this arrangement because of the relationship with the JFF," Compean said.
The Mexican Federation boss, who also made arrangements for the Jamaican press to visit the Mexican High Performance Centre for Tuesday's press conference, had finalised plans for Jamaica's Under-20s to visit the Azteca for last night's game.