We should take nothing for granted in the approach to men’s World Cup qualifiers
Pre-conceived notions would have influenced many to believe that after Jamaica’s 1-0 win over Honduras at the National Stadium in Kingston last week, the follow-up outing against Haiti would’ve been easier.
However, to his credit, Jamaica’s coach, Mr Heimer Hallgrímsson warned Jamaicans in the build-up to the Haiti clash that he thought the latter would be more difficult opponents.
We can assume, then, that Mr Hallgrímsson probably wasn’t overly surprised that Jamaica came close to losing — having to fight back from 0-2 down to earn a 2-2 draw.
Many Jamaicans are unaware that, in terms of football tradition and culture, this country is a long way behind Haiti.
In fact, we suspect that had it not been for Haiti’s tragic socio-economic circumstances, that country — with a population of 11.45 million people — would be way ahead of most football playing countries in the Concacaf region, possibly except Mexico and USA.
Our records show that, after Jamaica — as a British colony — started playing international football in the 1920s, Haiti, a regular opponent, were extremely dominant.
Jamaica’s first four international games in 1925 and 1926 all ended in defeat to Haiti including a 0-6 whipping at Sabina Park in November 1926. That Haitian dominance – interrupted by the odd Jamaican triumph — would continue for many decades until more recent times.
Jamaicans should also know that in 1974, in Germany, Haiti made its one and only appearance at a senior FIFA World Cup men’s tournament 24 years before Jamaica did likewise.
We should consider all of the above and avoid counting chickens before they are hatched, in regards to qualifying for the 2026 World Cup set for the USA, Canada, and Mexico.
As hosts, all three above-named counties will be exempt from having to qualify for the 2026 tournament.
In theory, that should make the chances of qualification easier for the Reggae Boyz. The reality, though, is that authorities in every serious football-playing country in Concacaf are thinking the same way. They will be doing all in their power to achieve qualification.
Nothing should be taken for granted by Jamaica’s football authorities.
In that respect, failure to plan and prepare properly was there for all to see in the inadequate state of the National Stadium field for the two most recent games.
Our reporter tells us that, for the match against Honduras, there were “numerous” dry and grassless patches on the National Stadium field in a game available for viewing globally.
We are told that the faults were caused by “trampling from patrons at a concert by R&B artiste Chris Brown on August 27, as well as performances during the Grand Gala celebration on Independence Day. Both events had stages set up on the field”.
Let’s be clear: As Mr Hallgrímsson pointed out prior to the Honduras game, there is no advantage to be gained from a substandard field. The contrary is true, since the Reggae Boyz squad primarily comprises professionals who ply their trade on high-quality surfaces overseas.
Beyond that, apart from ‘uglifying’ the quality of play and the television product, poor playing surfaces give Jamaica’s football and the national brand a bad name.
If we are serious about taking Jamaica’s football forward, embarrassing carelessness such as was manifested with the National Stadium field must not happen.