Boyz coach outlines stance on team commitment
HALLGRIMSSON... if it's professional players and they come from a professional environment, we have to step up as a federation to keep the same quality when they come here.

NATIONAL senior men's football team coach, Heimir Hallgrímsson says keeping players motivated to represent Jamaica requires professionalism from the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) as much as from the Reggae Boyz.

Hallgrímsson was addressing the media on Friday, in his first press conference since arriving in Jamaica on Wednesday, when he was asked about the importance of ensuring that players, especially those recruited from clubs overseas, stay committed to the cause.

Player commitment has long been a concern for some, especially after failed Fifa World Cup qualifying campaigns which featured squads heavily reliant on players born overseas. However, a number of former Reggae Boyz have been outspoken in their criticism of the JFF, saying that team's welfare was not at the highest standard when they represented Jamaica. Some players cite having to spend their own money to upgrade flights from economy to business class, as well as to improve the quality of their hotel rooms. There is also the issue of players threatening industrial action because of money owed to them.

Hallgrímsson says that for players to want to represent Jamaica, they have to be afforded the same professionalism they receive from their clubs overseas.

"If it's professional players and they come from a professional environment, we have to step up as a federation to keep the same quality when they come here," he reasoned.

"I think that is number one to keep them motivated so it will not be demotivating for players to come and play for Jamaica — that's number one. But in the end, when we have decided our working environment, our identity, then the question is, 'Is the player fitting the identity?' "

Hallgrímsson says he found it unacceptable that over 100 players have represented Jamaica in a two-year period, and this, he said, has affected team cohesion.

"To build a better team year by year, you have to have stability in your selection," he said. "So, you can't be playing a 100 players and always be starting from zero to try to implement our thoughts, then 10 new players next game and we have to start again from zero.

"Stability is number one and continuity is number two. Then you have to have the players to fit. So, you give the players a chance and then you build on them. If they're good, then they continue. If they're not good, then others will take their place — it goes without saying."

The new coach also addressed public disputes between players and the JFF. The most recent issue came up last week, with Captain Andre Blake being initially excluded from the squad preparing to face Argentina on September 27. He was, however, added to the list by Hallgrímsson who said that all players have a fresh start with him, in spite of differences they may have had with the JFF in the past.

"I hope we can start with a clean slate," he said. "So every player, whatever has happened in the past, has a chance to prove himself to be a part of the squad — especially the future squad. We will have a way of working, the coaching staff. The players will decide: 'This is the way we're gonna do things.' That's number one. How we're gonna speak, how we're gonna act, how we're gonna dress, how we're gonna sleep, how we're gonna eat, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera, we're gonna decide that together. Then we follow that path and then it's a question [of], 'Do the players want to be on this path, or [do they not?].' That's the question when we decide how we're gonna work together and what kind of identity the Jamaica national player should have; then it's easy to select players," he said, emphasising that the selection process is simpler when all parties establish common ground based on team values.

BY RACHID PARCHMENT Digital sports coordinator parchmentr@jamaicaobserver.com

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