The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) says it is eyeing financial opportunities which are expected to arise from the senior Reggae Boyz’s historic progress in the Concacaf Nations League A.
The Jamaicans defied the odds to beat Canada 3-2 in frigid and wet Toronto on Tuesday to reach the semi-finals of the Nations League after the two-way tie ended 4-4 on aggregate, with the Caribbean side triumphing based on the away goals rule.
In the pair of semi-final matches scheduled for AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, on March 21, 2024, the Boyz are to face the United States, while Mexico and Panama are set to lock horns. The final is slated for March 24, also at AT&T Stadium.
Additionally, by reaching the last four of the Nations League the Heimir Hallgrimmson-coached Reggae Boyz have qualified automatically as an invited team to the Copa America tournament next summer and have the chance to compete against high-profile South American countries.
“From a financial point of view, qualifying [for the Nations League semi-finals] was very significant for us,” JFF General Secretary Dennis Chung told the Jamaica Observer. “Because it means that we not only have the ability to go after bigger prize money from the quarter-finals up — the quarter-finals, I think, is US$1.5 million — but there’s also preparation money so it will significantly help us,” he said.
He added, however, that he could not yet confirm how much financial support the JFF could receive from Concacaf for participating in the Copa America.
Separately, Chung said the expectation is that corporate partners will be drawn to the Reggae Boyz.
“We think that the way the Boyz have been playing, the performances, that we’ll see greater sponsorship opportunities coming in. We’ve already started discussions about marketing opportunities, not in Jamaica, but globally… we think there will be a lot of marketing opportunities, so financially we expect that we can capitalise on it,” he said.
JFF President Michael Ricketts told the Observer that the extraordinary nature of the Jamaica team’s achievement was amplified because they entered the return leg on the back foot after losing 1-2 in the rescheduled first-leg match in Kingston last Saturday.
Their situation deepened in Toronto when they went behind in the first half. But Shamar Nicholson struck twice in the second half and Bobby Reid scored a late penalty kick to give the Reggae Boyz their first-ever win in Canada.
“When you think of the challenges, because we left Jamaica a goal down and then we conceded an early goal. The weather was horrible, to say the least — it was freezing and at the same time it was raining. All things considered, I think we showed character, we showed grit, and we showed determination,” Ricketts said.
“Certainly, the coach must be commended, along with the players and all staff members and JFF administrators who would have given yeoman service as part of the process of getting to where we are right now. When we engaged Hallgrimmson it was with these things in mind — that, as part of the process of getting to the World Cup in 2026, we must do well at these competitions,” he explained.
The JFF boss said the Nations League progress was savoured by Jamaicans at home and abroad.
“This [achievement] certainly would have influenced the psyche of every Jamaican. I understand that in every nook and cranny people were trying to get the score and get a glimpse of what was happening, and this is what football can do for a nation.
“The diaspora in Canada really came out, they gave us support and cheered us along… it was awesome. All in all we are very excited, and this augurs well for the team going forward,” Ricketts said.
Chung said the performance can motivate aspiring young Jamaican footballers, and has fingers crossed that more fans will latch onto the Reggae Boyz train similar to the frenzied build-up to the France 1998 campaign when the country qualified for its first World Cup.
“It helps in terms of social mobility because you have a little boy or girl out there who wants to make a career out of football. Primarily, we are looking to make an impact on the social development of the country… and the impact it will have on the people who dare to dream and want to be a part of this,” the JFF general secretary said.
“We expect we’ll see fans coming back; it’s a natural thing. We have some die-hards, so no matter what happens with the Boyz they will be there but we expect more fans will be coming back. We expect fans, not only [when we play] in Jamaica, but when we play overseas, so we are looking towards seeing them in the Nations League [final stage in Texas],” Chung reasoned.