Jamaican and Trinidadian football followers — perhaps the wider Caribbean as well — will be paying keen attention to friendlies between the two countries set for today at Catherine Hall in Montego Bay and Tuesday at the National Stadium in St Andrew.
As is always the case in sporting contests involving Caribbean neighbours, considerable national pride will be at stake.
More importantly though, the games provide priceless preparation for competitions up ahead, including the Concacaf Nations League, the Concacaf Gold Cup, and, of course, next year's all-important Concacaf World Cup qualifiers.
The dates do not fall within the FIFA window for international games, which means top overseas contracted professionals will be missing — obligated as they are to their clubs. Yet, in Jamaica's case, a few younger players based in Britain — apparently not immediately needed by their employers — and at least two seasoned overseas pros have made themselves available.
They and top local-based players who make up the majority of the Reggae Boyz squad will be under intense scrutiny from Head Coach Mr Heimir Hallgrimsson and his staff as they continue to explore their options.
We recall late last year Mr Hallgrimsson described himself as pleased that a squad of mostly local-based pros visited then World Cup-bound Cameroon and played to a respectable draw against a squad that was similarly local-based. That game represented his first real opportunity to see lesser known Jamaican players compete at a relatively high level.
Also, we note the coach's suggestion that while winning friendlies are important, there is much more to be borne in mind, including players' personality and behaviour off the field.
Said Mr Hallgrimsson: "It's about performance, but for me is more to see all the players, give them a chance to stake a claim and be in the next squad… so we'll have to give everyone a run out at least. But it's not only about what you [players] do in the 90 minutes or in the 50 minutes ... It's about also how you behave in the squad... How you … participate in the training session and in (meetings)".
Additionally, we daresay that many of the Jamaican and Caribbean footballers now plying their trade around the world gained contracts as a result of exposure which Friendlies such as those against Trinidad and Tobago enable.
We have heard over recent days of talented young Jamaicans now being eyed by overseas clubs. Friendlies such as these can only help their cause.
Finally, we note, not for the first time, that there are concerns about field preparation at Catherine Hall.
Mr Hallgrimsson, who recently spoke openly about his disappointment at the standard of football fields in Jamaica, has made it clear that he and his squad will not be distracted.
Nonetheless, as is well-established, below-par playing surfaces show Jamaica's football in a bad light.
Those responsible for venues in central and local government as well as the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) should ensure at all times that the country's good name is protected when we host regional and international visitors.
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