Reggae Boyz new coach calls for clean slate
Newly appointed head coach of Jamaica's senior men's football team Heimir Hallgrímsson (left) is presented with a national team jersey which he and and Jamaica Football Federation President Michael Ricketts display during a press conference in Kingston on Friday, September 16, 2022. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

DESPITE much being said about Jamaica's football and the turmoil that has unfolded around its governance, newly minted senior Reggae Boyz Head Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson is adamant about leaving the past in the past, as he expressed optimism about having a smooth four-year tenure.

To signal his intentions about starting with a clean slate, the Icelander overturned the controversial omission of captain and goalkeeper Andre Blake from the initial 23-man squad to face number-four ranked Argentina at the Red Bull Arena in New Jersey on September 27.

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 (JFF).

Among them were Marley group CEO Cedella Marley, who has been the global ambassador for the Jamaica women's football programme since 2014. In an Instagram post on Tuesday, Marley said she felt Blake was being "punished for standing up to the Jamaica Football Federation".

Hallgrimsson, who described the situation as embarrassing, pointed out that his aim is to ensure that every player has the same opportunity to prove themselves to represent the national team.

"Jamaica has had its cognitive problems from the past, and I have hope that all the things that have happened in the past stays in the past. I hope when we started we don't take problems from the past to the present and yeah, it is now in the process," Hallgrimsson told members of the media during his official introduction at Jamaica Pegasus on Friday.

"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," he declared.

The coach underlined that his focus will be trying to qualify the Reggae Boyz to the 2026 Fifa World Cup.

"Hopefully, as a coach [I] can start this cooperation with the captain and the team. I'm hopeful that we can have good relations.

"I hope this can be a new beginning; I hope this can be the beginning of something positive for Jamaican football. I know it takes a lot of effort from all of us because, in the end, we all want the best for Jamaican portfolio," he said.

Hallgrimsson explained that the contest against Argentina — who he views as possibly the next world champions — is the perfect way to start his tenure to not only further familiarise himself with players and, by extension, craft a bond, but also to assess the Reggae Boyz' weaknesses.

"They [Argentina] have a great team and they are in the final preparation, and the players are proving themselves to be in the squad in Qatar so they will be really competitive. Again, it wouldn't be too good for me to hide, but I think now is a great opportunity because they will expose our weaknesses, especially defensive weaknesses," Hallgrimsson stated.

He will be assisted by Swedish coach John Wall and Merron Gordon, with another Icelander, Juomundur Hreidarsson, set to take over duties as goalkeeper coach.

Hallgrimsson along with Lars Lagerback led Iceland to the quarter-finals of the 2016 UEFA European Championships.

He also led Iceland to the 2018 Fifa World Cup as head coach before taking charge of Qatari team Al-Arabi in 2018.

BY SHERDON COWAN Staff reporter cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

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