'Twas a great tournament Coaches salute players for gutsy performance

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, July 22, 2018

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BURBANK, Illinois — Jamaica's management staff credited the team for a gutsy performance that landed them the silver medal in division two of the first-ever Special Olympics Unified Football Cup.

They just missed out on first place after a 0-1 defeat to France in the division two final at Toyota Park's indoor facility Friday afternoon.

The tournament was a rigorous test of mental and physical endurance, especially for teams reaching the final stage, with a combined five, 60-minute games between Tuesday and Friday. In all that, the semi-finals and finals were both played the same day.

Malachi Brown, assistant coach of the Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) unified football team, said the competition provided useful scouting notes ahead of next year's World Summer Games in United Arab Emirates.

“It was a great tournament. We got a chance to see some guys and we are working on a team so it's a good opportunity to see the guys playing over a four-day period. There was pressure on the legs and we were able to see how they kept up with that type of activity in case they are chosen to go to Abu Dhabi and face a similar situation,” he said.

He noted that there was inconsistency in play, a level of indiscipline in tackling, and sometimes not enough potency in attack, but said it was an overall “commendable” display from the players.

“Sometimes they played good and then another time they played poorly, so I think we had a little fluctuation sometimes. In terms of defence, we did fairly well [against France] and didn't give up a goal — until the 41st minute — so they defended stout-heartedly and that is commendable.

“However, we were not getting enough balls over the top to at least get off some shots. On the other hand, we committed a lot of fouls and of course, credit to France because they played well to win the game,” Brown explained.

During the preliminary round, Jamaica, drawn in Group C, finished second with six points after losing 0-1 to eventual group winners Nigeria. They rebounded with respective 4-1 and 2-1 victories over Japan and Italy.

Earlier on Friday, Jamaica had a dominant 2-0 victory over China in the division two semi-final, but lost Captain Moran Singh due to hamstring injury in the first half. The inspirational attacker played no part in the final against France.

The stylish Ecuador team lifted the division one Unified Cup title after beating South American rivals Uruguay 1-0 in a hotly contested final at Toyota Park's main field. Both Ecuador and Uruguay had advanced to that final after penalty shoot-out wins over Nigeria and United Arab Emirates, respectively, at the semi-final stage.

Lennox Christie, head of delegation and SOJ director of football, also praised the overall performance and said the team did well in trying circumstances against an organised France outfit.

“I believe this team showed a lot of guts and they played extremely well under the circumstances. Having back-to-back games is pretty rough, but I still believe they stood up to the test and represented Jamaica very well.

“They were carrying a few niggling injuries into the final, but I tell you, the guys went out there and played extraordinarily well against a very compact France team, a very good team. We have nothing to be ashamed of and we're going home with the silver medal, though it could have been a different colour [gold]. The guys showed so much strength and power and tenacity, and they went out and did their very best,” Christie said.

The Unified Football Cup is part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the first Special Olympics Games staged at Chicago's Soldier Field Stadium in 1968.

Unified competition provides athletes with intellectual disabilities the chance to compete alongside and against athletes without disabilities.

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