KINGSTON, Jamaica-Almost three days after being omitted from the 23-man squad named to face Argentina in an international friendly in September, Reggae Boyz captain and goalkeeper, Andre Blake has now been included in the team.
The disclosure was made in an interview with newly-minted Reggae Boyz coach, Heimir Hallgrimsson. Hallgrimsson told OBSERVER ONLINE that as the new leader for the national squad, he hopes to start with "a clean slate so everybody has the same chance to prove themselves to play for the national team."
"There's a lot written about Andre Blake, the captain of the team. For me, it's in best case scenario, a little bit embarrassing, but I can tell you here we had a talk. The case is settled. He is in the squad," the new coach said. "Hopefully me as a coach can start this cooperation with the captain and the team. I'm hopeful that we can have a good relationship."
Blake's omission from the original team left a bitter taste in the mouths of many local football fans, some of whom publicly voiced their disappointment with the Jamaica Football Federation. Among them were Marley group CEO, Cedella Marley, who has been the global ambassador for the Jamaica Women's football programme for more than seven years. In an Instagram post on Tuesday Marley said she felt Blake was being "punished for standing up to the Jamaica Football Federation."
Hallgrimsson, who says he is honoured and grateful for the opportunity to lead the Reggae Boyz, said while all teams have issues, he hopes the past will stay in the past as he leads the national squad into a new era.
"It was about 100 players who have played for Jamaica for the last two years ... This is not only an exciting project, I know all projects have its problems from the past and I hope all the things that have happened in the past, stays in the past. I hope we don't take problems from the past to the present," he said. "When I was looking for projects to coach the next time, I was really selective. It was not about the money it was about the project and for me, it was a perfect match to come now to Jamaica to try to fix what is broken. There are always some obstacles we have to cross and we have to improve some big things, but for me it was a perfect match. I see so much potential here and if I compare this one to the Icelandic project, I think the potential is much more here than it was in Iceland."
The Reggae Boyz are scheduled to face Argentina, one of the favourites for the Fifa World Cup later this year, in a game in Harrison, New Jersey, on September 27.
Hallgrimsson said while defeating Argentina won't be an easy task, the match will be a lesson for the Boyz. "They are number four in the FIFA ranking, so it's not the easiest task for a new-coming coach to play them. They are possibly, and I say this with belief, possibly the next world champions," he said. "They have a great team and they now are in the final preparation and the players that are proving themselves to be in the squad in Qatar so they will be really competitive. But I think now is a great opportunity because they will expose our weaknesses, especially defensive weaknesses. So it's great for me to have this as a first game."