Theodore Whitmore will be forced to rejig his plans for Jamaica’s planned three-match tour of Japan, after half-a-dozen squad members were not permitted to fly to the land of the Rising Sun.
The head coach, who saw his 30-strong squad stripped to 22 after 10 players originally selected became unavailable for the friendlies, has a tough task against Japan, Japan’s Olympic U23 side and heavyweights Serbia.
Five England-based players and one from Sweden were denied boarding rights in Amsterdam, as they were did not have the specific PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) COVID-19 test results required for entry into Japan. The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) is desperately trying to ensure that these players can reach Japan for the whistlestop tour.
Dillon Barnes (Queens Park Rangers), Andre Gray (Watford), Adrian Mariappa Bristol City), Liam Moore (Reading), Kasey Palmer (Bristol City) and Blair Turgott (Östersunds FK) had undertaken tests using swabs from the dual method of the nasal and oral, but Japan only accepts PCR nasal tests.
Island-based players linked up with their US-based counterparts in Dallas en route to Japan on Sunday. Yet the Reggae Boyz arrived today (31 May) with a squad of just 15 players as Belgium-based Tyreek Magee (KAS Eupen), who travelled the Amsterdam route from Jamaica and possesses the appropriate negative COVID-19 test result using the Japanese specific method, failed to arrive in Tokyo.
The Jamaica contingent spent five hours at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport as they required clearance, followed by paperwork and COVID-19 testing. All members of the touring party will now be tested on a daily basis in Japan.
With the original 30-strong squad reduced because of a combination of club commitments, documentation/visa issues and injuries, this latest setback will be a severe blow for Whitmore.
Whitmore was already missing influential skipper and goalkeeper Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union), the defensive trio of Michael Hector (Fulham), Kemar Lawrence (Toronto FC) and Ethan Pinnock (Brentford), three midfielders – Ravel Morrison (unattached), Alvas Powell (unattached) and Lamar Walker (Miami FC) – as well as strikers Cory Burke (Philadelphia Union), Bobby Decordova-Reid (Fulham) and Shamar Nicholson (Charleroi in Belgium).
English-based defender Curtis Tilt (Rotherham United) and island-based attacking midfielder Kemal Malcolm (Arnett Gardens) were called up as late replacements.
The recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Japan – their fourth wave – has left many metropolitan areas under a state of emergency, which has been caused by virus variants that worryingly could even affect those who have been vaccinated.
Mid-June has been mooted as the earliest date for the state of emergency to end, which means that these planned friendly matches remain on the brink of being scrapped although that would seem to suit Whitmore and the JFF.
Jamaica are scheduled to tackle Japan on Thursday (3 June, 5.30am ko Jamaican time) in Sapporo, then face Serbia (7 June, 3.30am ko) in Kobe and conclude with a match against the Japan Olympic U23 team (12 June, 11.35pm ko) in Nagoya in preparation for July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.
JAMAICA DELEGATION FOR JAPAN TOUR
Officials | Patrick Malcolm (head of delegation), Theodore Whitmore (head coach), Jerome Waite (assistant coach), Warren Barrett (goalkeeper coach), Lamar Morgan (physical trainer), Roy Simpson (team manager), Dr Lincoln Cox (team doctor), Garone Brown (masseur), Rory Rhoden (masseur), Kevin Christie (physiotherapist), Norman Stone (equipment manager)
Goalkeepers | Dillon Barnes (Queens Park Rangers, England), Dennis Taylor (Humble Lions, Jamaica), Jaedine White (Cavalier, Jamaica)
Defenders | Amari’i Bell (Blackburn Rovers, England), Wes Harding (Birmingham City, England), Luca Levee (Harbour View, Jamaica), Damion Lowe (Al Ittihad, Egypt), Adrian Mariappa (Bristol City, England), Liam Moore (Reading, England), Curtis Tilt (Rotherham United, England)
Midfielders | Kevaughn Isaacs (Mount Pleasant, Jamaica), Oniel Fisher (LA Galaxy, USA), Kevon Lambert (Phoenix Rising FC, USA), Tyreek Magee (KAS Eupen, Belgium), Kemal Malcolm (Arnett Gardens, Jamaica), Kasey Palmer (Bristol City, England), Blair Turgott (Östersunds FK, Sweden), Devon Williams (Miami FC, USA)
Forwards | Jahshaun Anglin (Miami FC, USA), Javon East (Santos de Guápiles, Costa Rica), Junior Flemmings (Birmingham Legion, USA), Andre Gray (Watford, England)
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