'It was a learning experience!'

Jamaica's Spartan Elite accept fate after bowing out of Neymar Jr's Five World Final

Sunday, July 14, 2019

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SAO PAULO, Brazil — Jamaica's Spartan Elite proved no match for the opposition here at the fourth staging of the Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five World Final, bowing out at the group stage on Friday.

The two-day five-a-side event was staged at the Instituto Projeto Neymar Jr, located in Praia Grande, and was eventually won by Hungary's Zsirkretak in the men's category and Slovakia's Spartak Myjava on the women's side.

The Instituto, the Brazilian ace's is a non-profit association dedicated to social causes and offers extra-curricular educational and sporting activities to more than 2,450 socially disadvantaged children between the ages of seven and 14 years and their families.

The Instituto uses a teaching methodology based on sports and was founded in 2014 by Neymar Jr and his family in Jardim Gloria, Praia Grande, where the player spent most of his childhood.

He and his parents and friends arrived via his helicopter yesterday and participated in the formalities, as well as played a few games with his male friends against the men's winners, and with his Brazilian national female friends such as Cristiane and Andreas against Spartak Myjava. He also participated in a mixed game before taking pictures with the athletes who participated in the event.

A total of 43 men's teams from 42 countries contested the event, first staged in 2016, and 10 women's teams entered.

But from a Jamaican standpoint, it was certainly a learning process, as though they possessed the technical ability, Spartan Elite clearly lacked the experience, fitness, and nous for this type of game, and captain Rohan Thompson admitted to that fact when he spoke to the Jamaica Observer after being eliminated from the group stage.

“It was a learning experience,” he said.

“We suffered a bad call in the first game but otherwise from that we were passive, we were unfit and we failed to stick to the game plan.”

He added: “Those are the three main areas which cost us the games and I think that even if we had advanced to the knockout round, it would be difficult because the teams here are very fit. It's a learning experience for us, so next time if we do come back to Brazil we know what we have to do.”

Spartan Elite lost the first game 2-5 to Para A Cueca after FLOW's Most Valuable Player Akeem Gibbons gave them the lead. However, the team's inability to manage a lead, aided by a serious level of unfitness, gifted Para A Cueca a way back into the game, and the Portuguese duly took control to run out easy winners, even as Gibbons notched a second goal.

In their second game against Miramas, who appeared well out of their depth, Spartan Elite, led by a hat-trick from Gibbons, and two from Romio Brown, sent the Belgians packing.

And needing only a draw to enter the Lucky Loser spot for second place against Australia Links FC, Spartan Elite came from a goal down twice through Romio Brown and captain Thompson, before giving it away inside the last minute to lose 2-3.

They finished third with three points behind Para A Cueca on nine points and Links FC on six points.

The Red Bull Neymar Jr's Five is dubbed the biggest five-a-side football tournament in the world, and the event was hosted in Jamaica for the first time. It is now played across six continents and it gives aspiring footballers worldwide the opportunity of a lifetime.

The tournament is played with five players on each side with no goalkeepers and two substitutes. Whenever a team scores, the opposition loses a player which makes the games fast, technical, tactical, and great fun. A game lasts 10 minutes or until one team loses all its players. A team is expected to have up to seven players, aged 16 to 25, including two over 25, with no gender limitations, which means there can be mixed teams.

For Thompson, it was all about the players' mindset prior to arriving in Brazil.

“Our players' drive wasn't on fitness, they thought that they could let the ball do the work on the small field, and they would be all right,” he offered.

“We didn't keep possession of the ball and we didn't move forward as a team with the ball and get back as a team without the ball. We pushed forward and couldn't get back because we are not fit enough to get back as fast as the other teams and that cost us,” explained Thompson.

So, the biggest lesson learnt as far as he is concerned, is “moving as a team, forward and backwards, and fitness”.

“In this type of game if you are fit, and have the skill you are unstoppable and you have a good shot at the title. Without that you are going to lose,” he acknowledged.

Still, he had high praises for Gibbons and Romieo Brown, who registered eight of the nine goals scored by the team.

“Akeem is a natural goal scorer and I didn't expect anything less, maybe more, but he didn't have a lot of help. If we had moved forward more as a team I think he would have got more goals,” Thompson said.

The team captain concluded that based on the feedback he has got from the team, they have accepted their downfall and will take the lessons with them to practise their skill and improve their fitness and chemistry as a team.

– Ian Burnett


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