The Jamaican Government should explain inconsistencies
View from inside a spectator-less National Stadium during a World Cup qualifier in September 2021(Photo: Garfield Robinson)

We suspect new Jamaica Reggae Boyz Head Coach Mr Paul Hall won't have been too perturbed with his team's 0-3 loss in an international friendly against Peru in that country on Thursday night.

The game was in preparation for the upcoming round of Concacaf World Cup qualifiers which begins Thursday with back-to-the-wall Jamaica up against Mexico in the National Stadium.

More than anything else, last Thursday night's encounter provided Mr Hall — the former assistant coach who took over from his teammate at the 1998 World Cup Mr Theodore Whitmore after the latter was sacked in December — the opportunity to assess available players in the absence of Europe-based professionals who were fulfilling club commitments.

So now, Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, in sixth place of the Concacaf Octagonal table with just seven points from eight matches and hopefully back to full strength, will need to gather as many points as possible for the rest of the qualifying competition starting Thursday.

That will be followed by an away game to Panama on January 30, before the Reggae Boyz return home for a February 2 fixture versus Costa Rica.

As the situation now stands, Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, with just one win so far, are behind Canada, the leaders with 16 points, United States (15), Mexico (14), Panama (14), and Costa Rica (nine). The Jamaicans are ahead of El Salvador with six points and last-placed Honduras with three. Each team has six matches remaining.

The top-three nations from the Concacaf region will progress automatically to the World Cup, the fourth-place finisher will head to an intercontinental play-off for another possible spot to Qatar.

What it all means is that Jamaica's footballers only have an outside chance of reaching the World Cup later this year.

In the circumstances, Mr Hall, his players, and support staff would have surely welcomed the presence of spectators, the proverbial 12th man, for upcoming home games.

Sadly, the Jamaican Government — worried witless by the ongoing fourth wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic — has chosen to withhold permission for even a limited number of vaccinated fans to attend the clash with Mexico. Presumably, vaccinated fans will also be denied entry for the Costa Rica game the following week.

Make no mistake about it, the current spike in cases, which is apparently being driven by the fast-spreading Omicron variant, is alarming, to put it very mildly. Latest figures show 575 people in hospitals with the respiratory illness, up from less than 100 not long ago. Since March of 2020, we are told, 2,568 people have died from the dreadful disease in Jamaica. Millions have succumbed worldwide.

Yet, despite the ongoing spike, face-to-face classes have resumed in schools across Jamaica, public space restrictions which had been relaxed late last year have not so far been tightened, and Prime Minister Andrew Holness has told Jamaicans they must learn to live with the virus while protecting themselves by getting vaccinated.

Lest it's forgotten, horse racing fans are allowed to enter Caymanas Park, regardless of vaccination status.

So, how does it make sense to deny limited numbers of vaccinated fans to other sporting venues?

We think the Government needs to explain itself.

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