Jamaica’s goal of reaching the FIFA World Cup finals for only the second time in their 95-year history could be given a vital boost by the sport’s proposed rule change.
FIFA’s proposed rule change, which will be reviewed on 18 September, is that players can represent a second international team.
The proposal to permit players to switch allegiances has some rules and regulations, which include having not represented a country within the past three years and having not played more than three international matches before the age of 21. Next month’s FIFA Congress, due to be hosted virtually because of the coronavirus outbreak, will include this proposal to 211 national football federations.
With a total of 124 players born to Jamaican parents in England or who have Jamaican grandparents, competing in the English top four divisions there is always going to be some talent to unearth for Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz. However, England often likes to steam in and persuade in-form players that they should consider wearing the White Lions shirt rather than pull on a Jamaica golden jersey.
Yet England has a recent bad reputation of pleading with players who have international choices to commit to their country of birth, only to then discard them after one or two matches. If this proposal becomes a new rule next month this opens the doors for the Jamaica Football Federation to consider more players who originally turned their back on the Boyz.
Already there are four players with Jamaican heritage, all set to ply their trade in the 2020-21 English Premier League (EPL), being considered by England manager Gareth Southgate. Mason Greenwood (Manchester United striker), Mason Holgate (Everton centre-back), Ainsley Maitland-Niles (Arsenal midfielder) and Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United midfielder) are all expected to soon have showdown talks with Southgate and snub Jamaica to represent England.
The proposal is the result of a two-year process by a FIFA-working group that derived from the 2018 scenario of Spanish-born Sevilla forward Munir El Haddadi, who wished to represent Morocco. He made a single appearance for Spain, as a substitute in a European Championship qualifier, in September 2014. He took his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but failed in his bid to play for Morocco.
Jamaica have a number of options going from England in their determined bid to reach the highly lucrative 2022 FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar.
In the English Championship there is Tyler Blackett (Notts Forest), Frazier Campbell (Huddersfield Town), Nathan Dyer (Swansea City) and Liam Moore (Reading).
Defender Blackett is eligible for Barbados, England and Jamaica. Striker Campbell played once for England in 2012. Dyer was approached to represent the Boyz in 2012 but turned down their offer. Former Leicester City centre-back Moore gained 10 England U21 caps but, until he plays regularly n the top flight, is unlikely to be called up by England.
Other English-based players with Jamaican roots who ply their trade in the top tier that the Boyz could be interested include Kingston-born Rolando Aarons (Newcastle Utd winger), Kyle Bartley (WBA defender), Dwight Gayle (Newcastle Utd striker), Demarai Gray (Leicester City winger) and Andre Wisdom (Derby County right-back).
Aarons has turned down Jamaica in recent years to concentrate on representing England, but that call-up shows no signs of materialising. Gray was in the England squad for a friendly against Switzerland in 2018. Wisdom has been overlooked by England since 2013, after he was sent off for intentionally kicking a Finland player while the U21 captain.
FIFA last week had to rejig their Qatar 2022 qualifiers with the CONCACAF competition revised with the final round comprising eight nations. The five leading sides – Costa Rica, Hondura, Jamaica, Mexico and USA – will be joined by a trio of teams who have to battle it out through qualifiers.
Jamaica face 14 CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers that are scheduled to kick-off in June and continue next year in September, October and November respectively before being completed in January 2022 and March 2022.
Head coach Theodore Whitmore starts the campaign with the daunting visit of Mexico to the National Stadium in Kingston. He will rally his troops to host one of the qualifying teams before travelling to Costa Rica and the US in June. The Boyz will then face another qualifying team in Kingston before travelling to Honduras in September 2021.
Jamaica travel to the third qualifying team, then will welcome the US before their return fixtures against Mexico (November 2021), Costa Rica (January 2022) and Honduras (March 2022).
Whitmore has plenty of talented players competing on the island, throughout Europe and in North America. Yet should FIFA’s proposed rule be passed next month then he will have his work cut out to determine which new faces should be approached to tackle one of the most exciting eras in Jamaica’s history.
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