Let the games resume!

Sport

Let the games resume!

Whitmore calls for resumption of football; says dormancy will negatively affect Reggae Boyz' preparations

BY PAUL A REID
Observer writer
reidp@jamaicaobserver

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

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Reggae Boyz Head Coach Theodore Whitmore has expressed concern about the lack of competitive football being played by local-based footballers in almost a year and has urged stakeholders to do whatever needs to be done to get the local Premier League restarted.

Whitmore believes the situation will negatively impact preparations for the national team which will have a very busy 2021 with the Concacaf Gold Cup Tournament and the Fifa World Cup qualifiers later in the year.

Local football was disrupted last March after the first few cases of the novel coronavirus were identified in the island and two months later the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) cancelled the remainder of the season and called off all organised football competitions.

Since then efforts to restart football, including the schoolboys' competition, have been thwarted as the Ministry of Health and Wellness is yet to approve the protocols submitted by the JFF.

Additionally, Whitmore said he was concerned with selecting a team for upcoming friendly internationals, two of which are to be played next month, outside of the Fifa window dates for internationals. Two more games are slated for March.

“I am extremely concerned re the dormancy of the local players. They have not played any competitive football since last March — almost a full year,” Whitmore said in a statement to the Jamaica Observer on Monday.

“This obviously has taken away their competitive readiness for international competition and will surely place them at a significant disadvantage to their overseas counterparts.”

He added: “This situation is not good for the World Cup qualifiers and Gold Cup Final this year. Whatever needs to be done between the Government and the various football stakeholders, JFF and PFJ [Professional Football Jamiaca Limited], should be done now,” he said, before adding that, “Most countries are back playing competitive football.”

The impact from the failure to restart the Premier League, he said, was being felt in other ways away from the football field. “I'm already aware of the negative mental impact of this situation on players across the Premier League. This is how the players take care of their families. It's not recreation, it is their livelihood. This is how they put food on table, buy the baby feeding, medication for mom and dad. We need to show empathy towards the industry. Indeed, this situation has me very perturbed.”

The head coach and former Reggae Boy is of the opinion that football can be played without “undue compromise to the health situation of the country. It's no different from the BPO [business process outsourcing], horse racing and other sectors,” he pointed out.

“Professional football in a controlled environment is at no greater risks than some of these sectors. It just needs leadership and will.

“It is far more concerning that the players are out and about hustling to survive. This constant in and out of their respective communities because they are not concentrated on training and competition is placing them at far greater risks,” Whitmore told the Observer.

The reluctance to restart football, he argued, would have the effect of reversing all the gains the programme has made. “We should not come this far and kick the pail of milk over and throw away all our gains of the past few years without due consideration for solutions. We can do this. We are Jamaicans. We are leaders in solutions and innovations.”

The Reggae Boyz head coach called for support for the national team. “We need all the support we can get from corporate Jamaica and the Government. Funding is critical for preparation. After being locked down for almost a year, the country needs sports. The people need sports. It's important for the productive psyche of the nation that sports return online, albeit in a deliberate and responsible way. But we need to do it now.”


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