Reggae Boyz Head Coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore (Photo: AFP)
Whitmore rues missed opportunity to test Reggae Boyz against Japan

TOKYO, Japan — Reggae Boyz Head Coach Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore could hardly conceal his disappointment that the friendly international against Japan has been cancelled.

Jamaica were due to open a three-match tour of Japan with a game against the hosts Thursday for the traditional Kirin Challenge Cup, but the fixture was called off as the Boyz were not able to get all their players in time for the encounter.

“I am very disappointed because we came here with our minds set on playing three games and tomorrow would have been the first encounter against the Japan team. We wanted to see how we would match up to them, so yes, I am disappointed, but it is what it is,” Whitmore told the Jamaica Observer.

Nine Europe-based players, a few of them debutantes, were prevented from boarding their scheduled connection at Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam on Sunday because they did not possess the required COVID-19 negative test result certificate required to enter Japan.

The players from England had to return to their home country to have the Japan-specific test, which is a nasal administered swab.

Instead, the players presented negative test result certificates after nostril and oral swabs, but Japan insists on nasal only.

Another player, Belgium-based Tyreek Magee, mysteriously did not make the flight although he was in possession of the required negative result certificate. It is said that the former Jamaica College star has since returned to Jamaica.

“I am not even sure why Tyreek did not get on the flight, and I don't understand why he could have missed the flight [to Japan],” said Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts.

Those delays of getting the European-routed players resulted in the Boyz managing to get only 10 players who travelled through the USA in Japan on schedule. That number was insufficient to field a team against Japan for Thursday's cancelled game.

All things being equal, England-based Liam Moore, Curtis Tilt, Wes Harding, Amarii Bell, Kasey Palmer, Adrian Mariappa, Andre Gray, Dillon Barnes and Blair Turgott are expected to join the group at their final camp base in Kobe.

Striker Junior Flemmings, who is flying in from the USA, is expected to report to camp in short order as well.

With a full squad, Whitmore will now have a couple extra days to get in valuable training sessions as the team now prepares for the match against Serbia on Monday.

The Boyz will then engage the Japan Olympic team on June 12, a day before they depart the eastern Asian nation.

“What is important now is to have the players and then we can plan accordingly. We have to wait and see what time the players get here, and then we take it from there,” Whitmore said.

“We know that Serbia is a good quality team and I have been watching them the last couple of games, so we do know a bit about them. So, it's just for us to get in our players and see how we approach this game,” Whitmore added.

Meanwhile, JFF boss Ricketts says all is not lost despite not having the 'A' game against the hosts.

“It was a suggestion from the Japan FA that we cancel one of the games. The game for Thursday is definitely off, but we will play Serbia on the 7th and the Olympic squad on the 12th, so we still have two high quality games,” he said.

“Certainly not getting all the players in on time would have set us back a bit, but the coach is making use of the time by having some training sessions.

“We will begin preparation for the game against Serbia, so all is not lost, and we are still hopeful that we will get some positives out of this tour.”

Ricketts claimed that in a conversation with JFF agent, England-based Winston Clarke yesterday, he was given the assurance that all is now in place to have the remainder of the players join the group already in Japan.

“I spoke to our agent not so long ago and all the players have had their tests, and we are hoping that they will be here by tomorrow as tickets are being rescheduled for them,” he shared.

Japan FA Chairman Kozo Tashima, speaking at a media conference in Tokyo, said there was no point proceeding with Thursday's match as there were too many mitigating circumstances.

“We decided it would not be appropriate to hold the Kirin Challenge Cup with one team only having 10 players,” he said.

Ten players and 13 officials already in Tokyo were scheduled to fly to Osaka by private charter yesterday, and will then bus to Kobe, the team's final base.

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Deputy sport editor williamss@jamaicaobserver.com

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