Sports

Boyz skipper Blake laments latest off-field 'distraction'

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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LONG BAY, Antigua — Reggae Boyz Captain Andre Blake says it's “sad and unfortunate” that players have to keep dealing with off-field issues in the height of competition.

He says it is nothing short of remarkable how the team manages to progress even as its players have to confront matters of a non-footballing nature every so often.

Jamaica's Reggae Boyz have made headlines in the recent past for threatening to or have taken strike action for better wages and conditions, and are seemingly at constant loggerheads with the ruling Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).

Yesterday, the Boyz, in another episode, refused to lace up their boots for a planned early morning training session, citing the unsatisfactory conditions of their rooms at the Starfish Halcyon Cover Resort on Antigua's north-western coast as they prepare for their League B Concacaf Nations League (CNL) Group C match against the hosts.

The rooms were indeed found wanting across many areas, and this reporter who is embedded with the team, has found the players' claims to be legitimate.

Apart from the aged furniture and malfunctioning equipment at the property, team doctor Bersha Cole claimed he had found situations that could present health risks.

“The team is doing so well right now, and then we have to keep dealing with this kind of thing… as players we have had different situations over the years to deal with. And even with these distractions, we have to make sure that the mindset of the players is still in the right place, and we have to make sure once we touch the field we have to get the results,” said Blake yesterday.

“We want to just focus on football, but there is always something to distract us, and as I demand the best out of the players, we have to demand the best of the JFF, so that we are not given a basket to carry water,” said the Philadelphia Union goalkeeper.

Blake said many players did not get any sleep Monday night, and some even stayed away from the tap water which had a murky coloration.

“As the captain you have to represent the players, and from time to time players are going to approach you with concerns.

“Coming here [Halcyon hotel] one of the biggest concerns is the health and comfort, and more than half of the team did not sleep last night. Also, we found that the water from the taps is dirty, the AC [air conditioning] is also dirty and it is unacceptable,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Blake is not faulting the hotel for the shortcoming, but pointed that the process of selecting the hotel in the first place was flawed.

“I am not here to bash anybody, but I think we deserve better, as we have a great thing going right now, so there has to be a certain level of standard that we can't go below.

“I think how well we are doing right now and the position that we are in, this can only be a big distraction and this is not something we should be dealing with. As a result, we missed a valuable training session this [yesterday] morning, and for me that is one training less than we could have to improve. So it is very disappointing,” Blake said.

In response to the players' position and updates from Team Manager Roy Simpson and Dr Cole, the team eventually checked out of the hotel early afternoon yesterday and found more suitable accommodations on the eastern end of the island at The Verandah Resort and Spa.

Cole, who did an investigation and assessment of the players' rooms at Starfish Halcyon Cover Resort, found them to be below safe and comfortable levels.

“The rooms that I have inspected have faulty air conditioning units that are leaking and have led to the accumulation of stagnant water and that provides areas for mosquito breeding, and mosquitoes are already in some of the rooms, and this presents a risk for mosquito-borne illnesses.

“And because these AC units are not in good condition they present the risk for respiratory tract infection,” he said.

Jamaica, who are on top of Group C of League B with maximum 12 points and have virtually secured promotion to League A, are due to take on Antigua and Barbuda on Friday at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium at 8:00 pm (7:00 pm Jamaica time).

On Monday, the Boyz will complete their CNL fixture against Guyana in Montego Bay.


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