Recent results prove costly for future of Jamaican football
Captain Horace Burrell’s ambitious goal to make Jamaica the leading Caribbean football team will be put to the test at this week’s CFU Caribbean Cup in Montego Bay.
The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president’s genuine enthusiasm to put the Reggae Boyz on the world map has to be admired, but the nation’s recent results has left support waning.
Not only are fans showing their lack of interest in the progress of the Boyz under German head coach Winfried Schäfer, even the usual corporate support has shied away for the prestigious Caribbean Cup being played from 11-18 November.
With only the corporate stalwarts in the Montego Bay area of the Hilton hotel chain, Holiday Inn, Sunset Beach and Sandals Resorts International partnering the JFF, Burrell is furious with local businesses who have lost interest in the Boyz.
Burrell fumed: “The JFF are disappointed with the poor corporate support from St James, as hosting this tournament is bound to positively impact the tourism product and the economy of the city of Montego Bay.”
But the Boyz have maintained their long-term partnerships with Digicel, the tournament sponsor, and Wisynco (Powerade and Wata). With the Caribbean Cup estimated to cost around J$70 million (£350,000), the JFF have approached the state-run Tourism Enhancement Fund about helping finance the flagship tournament.
Cuba are the defending champions but it is the rejuvenated Trinidad & Tobago who are expected to be the stars of the eight-team tournament.
Coach Stephen Hart eased his Trinidad & Tobago outfit impressively through last month’s final round of Caribbean Cup round-robin qualifiers with triumphs over the Dominican Republic (6-1), St Lucia (2-0) and Antigua & Barbuda (1-0). Those results lifted them up the FIFA ranking and they are the only side inside the world’s top 50 at no49. Curacao and French Guiana make up Group A.
With Jamaica’s recent lacklustre performances showing no signs of improving, they are the lowest ranked team in Group B having slipped to world no113. They lie 20 FIFA ranking places behind Haiti with Antigua & Barbuda the top side on paper in the group as world no70. Martinique makes up the quartet but as an overseas department of the French Republic are not a FIFA member in their own right so are unranked.
The top two teams from each group will qualify for the 2015 Concacaf Gold Cup. The team crowned Caribbean Cup winners will also qualify for the 2016 Centennial Copa America, hosted in the USA, which will feature every South American nation as well as Costa Rica and Mexico.
Yet Burrell remains ever optimistic about the Boyz on home soil and said: “Jamaica have the quality to win the tournament, but it’s going to be tough tournament as all the teams are coming with their best professionals from overseas.”
Schäfer, whose dismal set of result at the helm, will be only too aware that his position will come under severe scrutiny should the Boyz fail to negotiate their way out of the group stages.
Surprisingly Schäfer claimed: “I’m sure we can win the Caribbean Cup, but it’s very difficult. To do well at this tournament is very important for our image and for our confidence.”
Reggae Boyz squad
Goalkeepers: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union, USA), DuWayne Kerr (Sarpsborg 08, Norway) & Ryan Thompson (Tampa Bay Rowdies, USA).
Defenders: Nicholy Finlayson (Waterhouse, Jamaica), Hughan Gray (Waterhouse, Jamaica), Kemar Lawrence (Harbour View FC, Jamaica), Wes Morgan (Leicester City, England), Nyron Nosworthy (Bristol City, England), Demar Phillips (Aalesund, Norway), Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers, USA) & Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo, USA).
Midfielders: Rodolph Austin (Leeds United, England), Romario Campbell (Waterhouse, Jamaica), Simon Dawkins (Derby County, England), Joel Grant (Yeovil Town, England), Joel McAnuff (Leyton Orient, England) & Je-Vaughn Watson (FC Dallas, USA).
Forwards: Deshorn Brown (Colorado Rapids, USA), Craig Foster (Reno, USA), Jamar Loza (Norwich City, England), Darren Mattocks (Vancouver, Canada), Dane Richards (Bodo/Glimt, Norway) & Michael Seaton (DC United, USA).
CFU Caribbean Cup Fixtures
Group A: Cuba (FIFA world ranking 112), Curacao (147), French Guiana (not a FIFA member so unranked), Trinidad & Tobago (49).
Group B: Antigua & Barbuda (FIFA world ranking 70), Haiti (93), Martinique (not a FIFA member so unranked), Jamaica (113).
Round 1 – 11-12 November: Curacao v Trinidad & Tobago, Cuba v French Guiana, Haiti v Antigua & Barbuda. Jamaica v Martinique.
Round 2 – 12-14 November: Trinidad & Tobago v French Guiana, Curacao v Cuba, Martinique v Haiti, Jamaica v Antigua & Barbuda.
Round 3 – 14-16 November: French Guiana v Curacao, Cuba v Trinidad & Tobago, Antigua & Barbuda v Martinique, Jamaica v Haiti.
Semi-finals: 17 November: Winner of Group A v Runner-up of Group B, Winner of Group B v Runner-up of Group A.
Third-Fourth Place Play-Off: 18 November
Final: 18 November