There is light ahead for the Reggae BoyzFriday, October 15, 2021
Jamaicans won't readily forget their distress in early September when their national football flag-bear ers, the Reggae Boyz, went down 0-3 to visiting Panama in the National Stadium.
As Jamaicans will recall, that game — played without spectators because of COVID-19 restrictions — was the second in the eight-team Concacaf qualifying tournament for the Fifa World Cup in Qatar next year.
The shock then related to much more than the margin of defeat. More to the point for those watching on television was the disjointed, totally shambolic approach of the team.
The hurt was even greater since, three days earlier, the Reggae Boyz, in their first outing, had fought admirably while going down 1-2 to powerful Mexico in the notoriously thin air of high-altitude Mexico City.
After the Panama debacle, spirits lifted slightly when the team went to Costa Rica and drew 1-1.
The topsy-turvy ride continued a week ago in the second three-match phase of Concacaf World Cup qualifying when the Reggae Boyz lost to powerful United States 0-2 in that country.
The immediate feeling was that the national team had to win against Canada on Sunday at home — Jamaica's fifth game of the 14-game octagonal.
As it turned out, the Reggae Boyz, again playing before an empty National Stadium, drew 0-0.
'Better than nothing' was the headline in this newspaper as well as the logical sentiment on the street.
However, the Reggae Boyz left for fellow 'strugglers' Honduras on Monday, knowing that — although it was an away game — they had to win.
In this space, a few days ago, we urged a kindling of the fighting spirit of our national heroes in order to end this second phase of the qualifying round feeling that there was still a chance of our team making it to Qatar.
Winning at football in Central America is a rare feat for any Caribbean country. But Jamaicans are nothing if not fighters.
The national team fought tooth and nail, their backs often to the wall, but always roaring back, to earn a 2-0 victory that has restored hope and proven the old saying that cream will eventually rise to the top.
This was a total team effort, full of pride and immense commitment. Heroes were everywhere on the field Wednesday night, like veteran Mr Je-Vaughn Watson, now 37 years old and who may well have thought his time in international football was over. But, called on in desperate times by Coach Mr Theodore Whitmore, he has responded with the heart of a lion.
And what of British-born and bred midfielder Mr Anthony Grant? Often ignored in the past, he is already a hero after just four matches because of his obvious, complete commitment to the cause.
These are early days yet. There is a long way to go before this qualifying tournament comes to an end, and there are no guarantees.
But if we are to go by what we saw from the Reggae Boyz in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on Wednesday night, there is light and hope ahead.