Sport

Veteran Mariappa keeps Boyz fire burning

…says team has potential to achieve 'great things'

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Friday, November 15, 2019

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LONG BAY, Antigua — Adrian Mariappa says his romance with Jamaica's football is as strong as the day it started back in 2012.

Seven years on and more than 47 caps to his credit, the London-born defender still gets goose pimples whenever he laces up for the Reggae Boyz, the senior national football team of his ancestral home Jamaica.

At 33 years old, he keeps going and going, and in his words, will keep moving to the beat of the Boyz for as long as his legs will allow him.

Mariappa told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, here at The Veranda Resort and Spa, that his love for Jamaica's football is kept alive in the main by the potential to achieve “great things” down the road.

“I love playing for the Reggae Boyz and every time I get called I always come because I love it and I do believe that we still can achieve great things, and I think we are on the right path and that prospect excites me.

“At my age and stage of my career I want to be playing and to be a part of something that is bigger than oneself,” said the Watford man, who is in Antigua with the Boyz for today's Concacaf Nations League match against the hosts.

That game will be played at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound, with kick-off scheduled for 7:00 pm (6:00 pm Jamaica time).

Even though the attrition rate for the team has been high over his tenure as a Reggae Boy, Mariappa remains committed and chained to the good memories and experiences that have accumulated in an array of ways.

“The personnel have changed a lot as people have come and gone. I think from my first camp the only person still in the team is 'Akka' (Je-vaughn Watson).

“But the whole experience I have been able to take in, with all the different places we go and all the games we have played, and now we have a group here chasing other goals, and I hope this is the group that will come to its full potential,” he said.

It is never always smooth sailing with Jamaica's sometimes troubled football programme, but even so, Mariappa boldly declared: “I have no regrets!”

“There are times when we might have some complaints, but we have learnt a lot through them and we have always exhibited the potential to do well.

“Yes, we have been through hardships and hard times, but we have been able to achieve a lot in the time I have been here, as we have been to two Gold Cup finals, we have played in two Copa America, and that was never been done before… and we are still trying to achieve a lot, and ultimately we are still trying to get to the World Cup,” he noted.

Mariappa has been a solid performer in the heart of Jamaica's defence since his arrival, and he appears in very good condition as he continues to chase the Reggae Boyz dream.

Like his fellow team veteran Watson, who is 36, Mariappa has given no indication in word or deed to suggest that retirement from international football is in sight.

“My mindset is always to play as long as I can, and obviously when you are playing football, there are years you can't get back, so while I am in good health, then I will be playing as long as someone wants me to,” said the former Crystal Palace man.

With the Concacaf Gold Cup 2021 and World Cup qualifying campaigns on the agenda, Mariappa has factored himself into both, and anything else the Boyz will have on their plate.

“I back myself to be a part of those campaigns and obviously I take those games seriously as I take every game seriously that I play, because a lot of players want to be in the position that I am in, so I try to perform at the best level I can, and if the team is winning and keeping clean sheets, then I am doing my job and I will continue work hard and fight for my place for future games,” he reasoned.

Looking ahead to today's Group C of the Concacaf Nations League B, the seasoned professional envisions a tough encounter against Antigua despite the 6-0 blowout in the first match in Montego Bay last September.

“It's going to be tough game, even though the scoreline was quite big in the first match. They were very physical as there were many challenges flying in… but I expect nothing less than a win,” Mariappa argued.

“We are just focusing on this game where we need a good performance and result and then we can focus on Guyana,” he said.

The Boyz play Guyana in Montego Bay on Monday to close the current CNL campaign.

The former Reading FC player says he has “been quite impressed with the Nations League”.

“I think it is helping us a lot, as we try to improve with every game… in these games we are expected to win, but we are also looking ahead and so we have to perform well and get the right results,” Mariappa ended.


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