Theodore Whitmore, the Jamaican head coach, played a pivotal role in ending the salary feud between his star players and the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). Yet his next goal is to finalise his squad for the financially lucrative FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
The 48-year-old former midfielder will undoubtedly be delighted that he has been rewarded for his endeavours in the tricky negotiations by finally being granted a video analyst system, which he requested last November.
With the JFF and players working in unity towards reaching next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar, Whitmore has to to once more be the peacemaker with players as the JFF are seemingly aiming to push away those island-based players.
With such big bucks at stake by reaching the prestigious World Cup finals for the first time since their debut at the sport’s showpiece tournament in 1998, the JFF are incredibly eager to upgrade their squad with British-born players.
The JFF, who were holding out over their contract deal with their usual array of players, are now happy to splash the cash on reaching the World Cup finals with an estimated billion Jamaican dollars being touted by JFF general secretary Dalton Wint.
Yet some of those named on Jamaican television by JFF president Michael Ricketts, who claimed that they were in the process of obtaining their Jamaican passports, hit back to categorically claim that they had had no contact with the JFF.
Although the JFF continues to tout names, the majority of players on their radar compete in the second tier rather than the top flight. Furthermore, it appears that the JFF is cherry-picking rather than letting Whitmore select and it seems bizarre that some players allege to be oblivious about potentially representing Jamaica.
This confusion and quandary leaves Whitmore in an all too familiar position, similar to those that he has experienced a number of times since signing a four-year deal with the JFF in 2018.
The JFF have implemented their Training Camps at the Mona Campus at the University of West Indies in Kingston to plan for the future. Despite hefty monies being ploughed into this, the scouring of British-born players with some Jamaican heritage appears to have taken precedent.
These actions mirror the same tactics that the JFF employed in 1997 under Brazilian coach Rene Simoes, when in a desperate bid to reach the 1998 World Cup finals in France they scouted for British-based players.
With a predominantly British-born squad the Boyz successfully made their way to making an inaugural appearance at the World Cup finals. May Pen-born Whitmore, who at the time played for English outfit Hull City, bagged a brace against Japan in Jamaica’s only victory in France as they bowed out of the competition.
Since this tournament the Boyz have registered just 18 wins from 56 World Cup qualifiers, so have been languishing away from the spotlight away from the CONCACAF region.
Yet Whitmore, despite so many obstacles, has sensationally turned around their fortunes by keeping Jamaica in the world’s top 50 as well as having guided the Boyz to the 2017 runner-up spot at both the Caribbean Cup and CONCACAF Gold Cup.
It is July’s Gold Cup that Whitmore will need to utilise to finalise his World Cup qualifying squad. Yet with the JFF constantly revealing names of new potential recruits, it is Whitmore who must be scratching his head.
He has a strong nucleus of players, with the ‘famous five’ automatic starters – goalkeeper and captain Andre Blake (45 caps), defenders Kemar Lawrence (60 caps) and Alvas Powell (49 caps), midfield maestro Leon Bailey (eight caps) and forward Damion Lowe (22 caps) – leaving just six berths to fill for a perfect line-up.
Whitmore could be spoilt for choice, but like any good coach will require time to knit his squad together as a unit. With football such a result-driven industry, it seems that he will be judged solely on the results that will make or break the Boyz’ bid to reach Qatar 2022.
If Wint’s words are true, then the JFF will put their money where their mouth is on both players and marketing with the ultimate goal to reach the World Cup finals.
With the stand-off between the JFF and players smoothed over by the intervention of Whitmore, it is all steam ahead for preparations to field the best possible team at the Gold Cup before tackling the all-important World Cup qualifiers.
The JFF and players recently signed a two-and-half-year contract, which coincides with the end of Ricketts’ term as JFF president. As long as COVID-19 doesn’t affect any competitions then this 30-month period covers Jamaica’s involvement in two Gold Cup tournaments (2021 and 2023), the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, the 2022 CONCACAF Nations League tournament and any friendly matches.
As well as the agreed fees, the squad will collectively also receive 20 per cent of any prize money that the JFF is awarded at the Gold Cup, Nations League and FIFA World Cup finals.
2021 & 2023 CONCACAF Gold Cup
JFF offer | US $500 per match
Players demand | US$2,000 per match, plus bonuses
Agreed deal | US$1,000 per match, US$1,000 bonus for a win or US$500 bonus for a draw (US$750 bonus for a draw vs. CONCACAF-ranked top five team)
2022 CONCACAF Nations League
JFF offer | unknown
Players demand | unknown
Agreed deal | US$500 per match (US$1,000 vs. CONCACAF-ranked top five team)
FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers
JFF offer | US$2,000 per match
Players demand | US$3,000 per match, plus bonuses
Agreed deal | US$2,000 per match, plus US$2,000 bonus for a win or US$1,000 bonus for a draw
JFF offer | unknown
Players demand | US$3,000 per match (vs. FIFA-ranked top 30 team) and US$2,000 (vs. team FIFA-ranked outside the top 30)
Agreed deal | US$1,000 per match
Money talks in football, and with the JFF happy to heavily invest they are hoping to strike it rich by competing in the Middle East at Qatar 2022. However, there is an expression that the JFF should be wary of that states: “More money means more problems”.
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