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Boyz land in Saudi Arabia for friendly encounter

Thursday, October 05, 2017

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia — The changes continue to mount for Saturday's football game between Jamaica and Saudi Arabia here in this port city on the Red Sea.

First the playing venue was changed from the Desert nation's capital Riyadh to Jeddah at the turn of the week, then the Jamaica Observer has recently informed that the game is no longer a FIFA International 'A' or tier 1 game, but is now what FIFA refers to as a “training” game, which does not require the same authorisation as the FIFA International 'A' or tier 1 match.

The downgrade came about after the local federation failed to submit its application for International 'A' status on time.

The game is now slated for an 8:45 pm kick-off (12:45 pm Jamaica time) at the three-year-old King Abdullah Sports City (Stadium), also known as The Shining Jewel, which was built at a cost of US$560 million with a capacity of 62,241 spectators.

The fact that it will not be considered as an international 'A' match in any of FIFA's files and registers means that the game will therefore not have any effect on the pertinent FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings and players statistics.

Mike Ricketts, president of the Jamaica Football Federation, explained how the downgrade arose.

“What it does is that it has no bearing on your ranking, even if we were to beat Saudi Arabia 5-0, or 10-0. But the real reason is that the Saudi Arabian FA was a little bit tardy in getting permission from FIFA and based on that delay the game lost it's International Friendly 'A' status, but it won't affect us too much. We just hope that we will be competitive because it is part of the marketing tool to get more interest from teams wishing to engage us in friendly games.”

Ricketts, who arrived in the oil-rich country with the Jamaican delegation yesterday, said that the change of venue came as a disappointment for many Jamaicans working in Riyadh. He also claimed that the change was decreed by King Salman, but a senior representative from the organising company told the Observer last evening that it was merely the federation's wish to have to venue changed to Jeddah, where most of the World Cup qualifiers were played. “The King isn't even here,” he said. “He's visiting [President Vladimir] Putin in Russia.”

“It has shifted and we had to make a number of changes, and disappointingly so, because there was a number of Jamaicans who wanted to see the game, as I have mails and text messages from a number of Jamaicans in Riyadh — about 100 Jamaicans who work at a smelting plant in Riyadh — who wanted to come to the game,” Ricketts said.

And up to last evening 15 of the 20 players had arrived at the team's base. Twelve made the trip with the larger contingent, while three came in from across Europe and the Middle East. The remaining five are expected here this morning from New York — Kemar Lawrence, Jermaine Taylor, Romario Williams, Oneil Fisher and Shaun Francis.

Those joining the group yesterday were Michael Seaton, Damion Lowe and Dwayne Miller. The rest of the squad is Damion Hyatt, Ladale Richie, Rosario Harriott, Jamiel Hardware, Devon Williams, Marvin Morgan, Ricardo Morris, Ewan Grandison, Alex Marshall, Chevon Marsh, Je-Vaughn Watson, Fabian Reid.

The Boyz were given a rest day to recover from travelling yesterday, but will hit the pitch at the match venue today at 6:00 pm (10:00 pm Jamaica time).

— Ian