Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, who kick off their FIFA World Cup qualifiers in August, have had their plans scuppered for a 15-player elite training camp in Kingston.
The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has been forced to cancel its training camp, which was organised to prepare for their exhibition match against the United States in Austria on 25 March.
Government permission was granted to the JFF to host the training camp at the UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence. Yet the JFF announced that their plans had to be altered, only 24 hours after the training camp had commenced. The reason was revealed that the squad members needed to visit the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC to process their visas.
The JFF have surprisingly yet to announce their squad for hastily-arranged game at the 10,000-capacity purpose-built Stadion Wiener Neustadt south of Vienna, home to the club SC Wiener Neustadt. Two Egyptian-based players, defender Damion Lowe and striker Romario Williams, are definitely in the squad.
With the names of squad members still shrouded in mystery, it seems that the ongoing dispute over money between the JFF and players that they wish to sign contracts has stood in the way. Obviously those in Washington DC to apply for visas will be included in the squad when it is revealed.
The battle over finances became apparent before last November’s whistlestop tour of Saudi Arabia, which came close to being abandoned because of a potential rebel by some players with the JFF.
Accordingly, the JFF has been desperately scouring the globe to bring in new faces under the guise that head coach Theodore Whitmore wishes to strengthen the squad. UK-based players are firmly on the radar, which include Rolando Aarons (Huddersfield Town), Andre Gray (Watford), Isaac Hayden (Newcastle United), Mason Holgate (Everton, on loan at WBA), Liam Moore (Reading), Nathan Redmond (Southampton), Kemar Roofe (Rangers) and Ivan Toney (Brentford).
Former Leicester City winger Demarai Gray, who plays alongside Jamaican ace Leon Bailey at German outfit Bayer Levenkusen, has also been approached.
It is believed that the obvious cost of air transportation will determine the squad against the United States.
The JFF released a statement: “Due to major developments regarding travel to Austria and in particular the acquisition of the necessary visas, the delegation for the friendly international departed the island today (16 March).
“The JFF was advised late Monday evening that all members of the delegation would need to be present at the Austrian Embassy in Washington DC at 9am on 17 March as digital applications would not be accepted.
“Unfortunately this means that the elite training camp, which begun yesterday, was cancelled as a number of the players called to camp are a part of the squad to Austria. The JFF was disappointed that an environment, which would have allowed our players to once again begin to practice their craft, could not be fully utilised at this time.”
This exhibition match – a rematch of the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup semi-final that Jamaica lost 3-1 – kicks off a busy year for both nations. This comprises July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup followed by the start of regional World Cup qualifiers, which has been further delayed until 30 August to 8 September.
The Boyz are scheduled to kick off their World Cup qualifying campaign against Mexico, followed by a home game against one of the qualifying teams, will then tackle trips to Costa Rica and the United States.
The USA were in fine form in their last outing, thrashing Panama 6-2 in Austria last November. In the same month the Boyz bounced back from their dismal 3-0 reversal to Saudi Arabia to register a battling 2-1 success and save the potential traverty of Whitmore being given the boot.
Jamaica, currently FIFA-ranked no.47 and some 25 places behind the US, are desperate to reach next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar. They have only made a single World Cup finals appearance, which was at France 1998, when they relied heavily on a British-based contingent featuring such icons as Deon Burton, Robbie Earle and Ricardo Gardner that earned the nation’s team the nickname of the Reggae Boyz.
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