Sports

Boyz, JFF back in the ring

Concacaf not amused that up-in-arms players were late for charter flight out of Kingston

IAN BURNETT
SPORT EDITOR
WITH THE REGGAE BOYZ
IN HOUSTON, TEXAS

Thursday, June 20, 2019

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HOUSTON, Texas — Another bout of off-the-field wrangling between the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and its senior men's team earned the ire of Concacaf which could threaten the Reggae Boyz' continued participation at the 2019 Gold Cup tournament after their late arrival for a charter flight from Kingston to Houston on Tuesday.

The team's tardiness for its scheduled 11:00 am arrival at the Norman Manley International Airport for a 1:00 pm charter via Miami Air sparked a string of e-mails from Concacaf's senior manager of Competitions, Latoya DaCosta, to JFF General Secretary Dalton Wint and copied to relevant officials at Concacaf.

DaCosta's e-mail, which was seen by the Jamaica Observer, indicated that the Jamaica team was to arrive at the airport at 11:00 am and at the time of the communication at 11:33 am the team had not yet done so, though its luggage had arrived.

In her e-mail, DaCosta stressed that the charter would depart at the scheduled time, as the team “should not be at the hotel at this time locked in negotiations”. El Salvador (the other team on the charter) had already checked in and the Concacaf senior manager also reminded the Jamaicans that it was an international flight.

Manolo Zubiria, the chief football officer at Concacaf, was quick to respond.

“Negotiations?

“We cannot wait for this, if the plane has to depart, the plane departs. This is not correct,” he wrote.

The Jamaican delegation eventually arrived about midday and the flight lifted at 1:40 pm and arrived in Houston just before 5:00 pm.

The Observer has since learnt that the players decided not to board the team's bus at the scheduled 10:30 am departure from the hotel to the airport because of still unresolved issues with their governing body.

Veteran player Je-Vaughn Watson explained that the players met with the JFF on Sunday but failed to reach an agreement due to a number of factors. He indicated that the players were dissatisfied with their prize money agreement from the last Gold Cup and so “this year the offer was good for both parties because we go through it time and time again and yesterday (Monday) the reason why we didn't board the bus (at the scheduled time) was because they didn't come back to us and we already had a game in the back (Honduras) and they already owed us for the US game, so I think that the measure that we took to try to get what we wanted was fair enough”.

He added: “I think so, because after we didn't board the bus, Mr Ricketts (Michael JFF president) came there and said they are going to give us the offer that we asked them for, so by Friday the latest we will see, because they already gave us a deadline for when they are going to pay us everything (appearance fee for the friendly game against the US on June 5, and Monday's Concacaf Gold Cup game against Honduras).

“We have a meeting with them on the phone today (yesterday)… so after that we will have more concrete information about the payment for everybody.

“They said they had some problems not receiving the funds or whatever, because at first we heard the funds were dispersed to the players and then after that it wasn't so, it was different information, so we just have to wait and see because they are saying they should get some money, probably from the US federation, they didn't receive it so that's why the players didn't get it.”

When quizzed about the possible implications and consequences of delaying the Concacaf-organised flight, and the e-mails that were generated from Concacaf as a result, Watson was initially dumbstruck.

“No, this is the first I am hearing about that. We just weren't going to board the plane because we didn't get anything concrete and we still haven't received any money and we are here, so it's more than just the money because we are playing for the love of the country. At the end of the day I think if they (JFF) treat us fairly we got no problem, and I think they are trying their best — probably it's not like they got the funds at hand that they can give it to us, but we just want to know; keep us in the loop and let us know what's going on so we don't have to do this strike thing or not boarding the plane again.”

Meanwhile, JFF board director and assistant head of delegation Patrick Malcolm said everything was in place for an on time departure only for the players to decide not to board the bus.

“The good thing is that it was on Jamaican soil this time and so we had to pull out all the stops, including pulling the president from his activities to have a discussion with the players.

“A discussion that we already had with the players to say that we would have offered as best as possible what could have been done. The players were asking for US$2,000 per game and 50-50 of any winning prize money.

“The president came in and he sort of provided a direction that we should go and only then [did] the players decided to take the bus. Ultimately, it seemed to have soothed tempers and calmed everybody because we are now in the USA and looking forward to the game on Friday.”

Malcolm, the St Elizabeth Football Association president, was at the heart of the last stand-off between the parties earlier this month when Jamaica played against the USA in a friendly international in Washingston, DC, and he hopes to see an amicable end to the impasse once and for all.

“I must say though that this just cannot continue where every other second, or every other minute we are almost sitting on eggshells waiting for something to happen… you are expecting that the players are going to do something, but I'm hoping and praying that good sense will prevail.

“We've had some discussions since we got here and they are all upbeat and they are happy, and I'm hoping that can translate into football on the field of play in another few days.”

And having come close to missing the flight to take the teams to their next host city in the confederation's flagship event and risk bringing the competition into disrepute, Malcolm was just happy things didn't get any worst.

“I just want to say that I don't know what would've happened if that plane had left us because I'm pretty sure that the JFF by itself wouldn't be able to find funding to send us to this tournament, and outside of that who knows what Concacaf would have done if we had missed that flight?

“I guess the Boyz were saying that they should have got some funding from the Washington, DC, set-up and unfortunately the JFF didn't provide that for a number of reasons, and the president made it clear that they would get it in short order, so understanding that the Boyz decided that it would be more country than self and that was good.”

Meanwhile, Watson has made it clear that the players are fully focused on the job to give of their best whenever they cross the white lines and enter the field of play, despite their militant actions off the field.

“I think off the field the players are thinking about it (match fees), but on the field it is a different ball game because we have played the game (Honduras) already and even though we won the game, it's a tournament and it doesn't matter how you win, because you could play well and lose, so a win in front of the home fans is always good so we are still pushing on…we talk to the president and all we say to them is to just gas the car because we are ready to go.”


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