Light up ahead for Jamaica’s football
Reggae Boyz attacker Leon Bailey rounds Mexico goalkeeper Rodolfo Cota but the Aston Villa star failed to follow up on his fourth-minute goal during the Concacaf Nations League Group A match at the National Stadium in June. The game ended 1-1. (Photo: Joseph Wellington)

Recent controversies affecting Jamaica’s football obviously cast a dark cloud over the national programme.

Readers will recall that former coach of the Reggae Girlz Mr Vin Blaine was left with no choice but to resign after senior members of that squad wrote a damning letter expressing their total lack of confidence in him.

He was subsequently replaced by a former national coach Mr Lorne Donaldson, a national player from decades ago.

Then came the demand from senior members of the Reggae Boyz for the departure of the Jamaica Football Federation’s (JFF) General Secretary Mr Dalton Wint.

The players were angered by embarrassing organisational foul-ups which culminated with them being stranded in Suriname following a drawn away game in the Concacaf Nations League. The Jamaicans found themselves still in Paramaibo even after the Surinamese team had arrived in Kingston for the return match.

News reports say that on their eventual return home the players only agreed to take the field against Suriname after Mr Wint pledged to resign. To our knowledge, that promised resignation letter is yet to come. But, to the relief of all concerned, the players not only took the field, they did well — beating Suriname 3-1 and a few days later drawing 1-1 with regional powerhouse Mexico.

The controversies were particularly depressing after the Reggae Boyz’s dismal campaign for a place at the Fifa World Cup to be held in Qatar later this year. The Jamaicans finished sixth in the eight-team Concacaf World Cup qualifiers. This was after they seemed a good bet — prior to the start of the campaign — for at least a fourth-place finish, which would have allowed a play-off against a team from another confederation.

That play-off opportunity fell to Costa Rica, who defeated New Zealand to become the last qualifier for Qatar.

Given the controversies and earlier on-field disappointments, the Reggae Boyz’s performances against Suriname and Mexico, which have guaranteed a place at next year’s Concacaf Gold Cup, provide some comfort.

For interim Reggae Boyz Coach Mr Paul Hall — who presumably will sign on permanently — as well as the JFF, the recent lessons, good and bad, should be internalised for the road ahead, including the next World Cup qualifying campaign.

In regards to the latter campaign, all concerned will no doubt be paying close attention to the talent on show in the Jamaica Under-20s, currently competing in the Concacaf age-group tournament in Honduras. The team has advanced to the Round of 16 despite a 0-5 crushing by the hosts. Progress came thanks to a 1-1 draw with Costa Rica and a 2-0 win over Antigua and Barbuda.

Preparation time was obviously inadequate and there was little time for local and overseas-based players to build team chemistry, but there is evidence of very good potential among the young Jamaicans.

Also, we will watch with interest the progress of the Reggae Girlz squad at the Concacaf World Cup qualifiers in Mexico, July 4-18. Drawn in Group A alongside world champions United States, host, Mexico, and Haiti, the Girlz are currently in a training camp in the United States. We wish them well.

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