'We're not deterred'

New JFF prez pledges continued support of Reggae Boyz, technical staff

By Ian Burnett
Sport editor

Friday, October 13, 2017

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This new Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Administration will not be deterred by last Saturday's loss to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and has pledged its continued support of the players and technical staff in a concerted effort to develop a formidable Reggae Boyz brand.

That's the reaction of the recently elected president, Mike Ricketts, who witnessed first-hand Jamaica's 2-5 loss in the tier-two game played at the King Abdullah Sports City (stadium) in the desert country.

“We will continue to try and get quality games, and our agent Winston Clarke, since this game, has been talking to some football officials from countries that previously had expressed an interest, so we are not going to be deterred by this result, and we are going to work with our youngsters and staff to build a real brand; a real unit that will be competitive throughout the world,” Ricketts told the Jamiaca Observer as the team journeyed back home on Sunday.

In the game on Saturday, played before 8,226 men only at the 62,000-plus capacity, three-year-old venue, the three-time Asian Cup champions went ahead from as early as the 22nd minute when Salem Al-Dawsari found the back of the net. Jamiel Hardware of Boys' Town equalised with a peach of a goal in the 35th minute.

However, that score held for only three minutes as Hazza Al-Hazza put his Russia 2018 World Cup finalist back in front when he flashed a near-post header past Jamaican goalkeeper Dwayne Miller at the far post.

A minute before half-time referee Sultan Marzoqy of the United Arab Emirates made a hard penalty call against Ladale Richie for a foul on Al Hazza, which Salman Al-Faraj duly converted to extend the lead.

Shortly after the resumption (48th minute) right-sided defender Mohamed Al-Berik turned home from close range during a melée and, although substitute Marvin Morgan halved the deficit in the 68th minute, Abdullah Al Joui added gloss to the final score in time added.

It is Ricketts' hope to strike the right balance in providing high quality games for exposing his cadre of players and at the same time keeping the Reggae Boyz brand marketable.

“The truth is that nobody wants to lose, irrespective of how good the opposition is, but yesterday (Saturday) we played a quality team, and our bunch was essentially very inexperienced, yet we were competitive in parts.

“I think we gave up some soft goals; I think we gave up a penalty that was highly questionable. When you look at the last 30 minutes of the game we were very competitive; we were keeping the ball and we were passing the ball around, so it is part of a process, and I would think that we did learn a lot from yesterday's game.”

He added: “I wouldn't be too disappointed, even though we lost 5-2, but we did learn some lessons, and this set of players have some quality, and my policy and my philosophy will certainly be to try and develop our young players and, of course, our young technical staff as well.”

Ricketts revealed that he has had reasonable feedback from Jamaicans via text and WhatsApp messages.

“There is quality in our team and this JFF Administration will be supporting them as best as we can in trying to build a formidable unit out of this crop of youngsters. We lost, but were not disgraced,” he said.

However, Ricketts was quick to point out that he didn't want to send the wrong message, or to be misunderstood as willing to accept really bad performances and results.

“One bad thing about the scoreline is that you don't make yourself marketable when you lose 5-2, because I know that there were a number of teams who would have been looking out to see what the scoreline would have been. But I think we defended poorly yesterday. I don't know if the defensive midfielders gave the defenders enough support... and we made some real simple mistakes in defence and conceded. But it is part of the process, and some of these defenders will need to be tighter and a little bit more aggressive.

“When you lose to quality opposition you can live with it, and I would think that this Saudi Arabian team is a good team with real quality, so when you lose to them the world will say it is a Caribbean team that was beaten by a good team. And we still can boast about our performances at the last two Gold Cup tournaments, and that would make us marketable. So we just want to ensure that we are not beaten up by our CONCACAF and Caribbean neighbours.

“We must ensure that we make the product something that is marketable, and a one-off 5-2 beating probably won't hurt us too much, especially against a good team,” said Ricketts, who will complete the remaining two years of the late Captain Horace Burrell's four-year tenure.

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