Michail Antonio, the in-form West Ham striker who has just received his Jamaican passport, has surprisingly been included in the Jamaica Reggae Boyz squad announced last night (30 August).
The 31-year-old is in the 35-strong squad named by head coach Theodore Whitmore despite the English Premier League initially banning players travelling to red list nations during the September international break. Andre Gray, the Watford forward, is a notable absentee from the squad.
But a U-turn yesterday by a handful of Premier Leagues clubs has resulted in certain players being released. This includes the Jamaican trio of Antonio, injured Aston Villa midfielder Leon Bailey and Brentford defender Ethan Pinnock.
The UK government’s quarantine restrictions mean that any British-based players who travel to represent Jamaica in red-listed countries in September would be forced to spend 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel.
Jamaica have three fixtures scheduled in a bid to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, which kicks off by tackling red-listed Mexico on 2 September. The Boyz host Panama in Kingston three days later and on 8 September face Costa Rica that is also red-listed.
However, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) have stipulated that certain players will not be visiting the red-listed countries of Costa Rica and Mexico. The list includes the British-based contingent of Antonio, Bailey, Amari’i Bell, Bobby Decordaova-Reid, Daniel Johnson, Jamal Lowe, Liam Moore, Adrian Mariappa, Ravel Morrison, Pinnock, Kemar Roofe and Kevin Stewart.
This indicates that Whitmore will be fielding a largely British team against Panama, with Antonio in line to make his international debut for the Boyz.
The Boyz could be denied playing their home matches in Kingston. With the Covid-19 situation worsening across the Caribbean island, JFF general secretary Dalton Wint has admitted that the Boyz could be playing their World Cup qualifying home games outside the country.
Jamaica announced the record number of Covid-19 cases in a day with a total of 929 and 21 deaths on Saturday (29 August), with a leading UK travel company cancelling holidays to the island the following day.
FIFA were considering the postponement of World Cup qualifiers because 26 countries would have been affected by the Premier League’s refusal to allow players to travel, and the Spanish top flight having since followed their stance.
Mexico head coach Gerardo Martino included Wolverhampton Wanderers’ striker Raul Jimenez in his 28-strong squad before the U-turn by the Premier League clubs.Martino guided his side to the CONCACAF Gold Cup runner-up spot, losing 1-0 in extra time to the United States. He brings in 11 players who missed that tournament to compete at the Olympic Games where they finished with a bronze medal.
Jamaica will kick-off the region’s 2022 World Cup qualification in Estadio Azteca, which sits at an altitude of 2,200m above sea level, with the encounter played behind closed doors. Mexico were handed a one-game ban following their fans’ infamous anti-gay chant during their home 2021 Olympic qualifier in Guadalajara.
Whitmore is scheduled to follow up the Mexico trip by taking on Panama at Kingston’s National Stadium on 5 September, and close out Jamaica’s September qualifiers with a visit to Costa Rica three days later. Costa Rica is the sole Central American national team to have played in five FIFA World Cup editions.
Costa Rica, Mexico and Panama are the only nations in the eight-team competition on the red list, but Jamaica is expected to join very soon.
The other sides in the CONCACAF region’s World Cup qualifiers, with only the top three teams from the round robin format earning an automatic place at Qatar 2022, comprises Canada, El Salvador, Honduras and the United States.
Despite interest from Jamaica for Manchester United hot-shot Mason Greenwood, who has bagged 20 goals in 68 Premier League appearances, England head coach Gareth Southgate has spoken out about the 19-year-old striker who is eligible to represent the Boyz through his parents.
Southgate said about Greenwood being overlooked for the England senior side and the U21 squad during the September international break: “He 100% wants to play for England and there is no suggestion there is anything else there, the dual nationality is a bit of a red herring.”
Jamaica have introduced plenty of new faces from the lesser leagues in England as well as the Scottish top tier. However, the JFF are continuing to strongly pursue British-based players with dual heritage in their desperate bid to qualify for their first appearance at the World Cup finals since 1998, when Whitmore was an influential figure in the heart of midfield.
Goalkeepers | Andre Blake (Phildephia Union, USA), Dillion Barnes (QPR, England), Dennis Taylor (Humble Lions FC)
Defenders | Amari’i Bell (Luton Town, England), Javain Brown (Vancouver Whitecaps, Canada), Oneil Fisher (LA Galaxy), Richard King (Cavaliers SC, Jamaica), Damion Lowe (Al-Ittihad, Egypt), Kemar Lawrence (Toronto FC, Canada), Liam Moore (Reading, England), Adrian Mariappa (unattached), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford, England), Alvas Powell (Phildephia Union, USA), Wes Harding (Rotherham, England)
Midfielders | Leon Bailey (Aston Villa, England), Anthony Grant (Swindon Town, England), Daniel Johnson (Preston North End, England), Tyreek Magee (Eupen, Belgium), Ricardo Morris (Portmore United, Jamaica), Ravel Morrison (Derby County, England), Kevin Stewart (Blackpool, England), Blair Turgott (Östersunds, Sweden), Lamar Walker (Miami FC, USA), Devon Williams (Miami FC, USA)
Forwards | Michail Antonio (West Ham United, England), Cory Burke (Phildephia Union, USA), Norman Campbell (FK Čukarički, Serbia), Bobby Decordaova-Reid (Fulham, England), Javon East (Santos de Guápiles FC, Costa Rica), Junior Flemmings (Birmingham Legion, USA), Peter Lee Vassell (Indy Eleven, USA), Jamal Lowe (Swansea City, Wales), Shamar Nicholson (Charleroi, Belgium), Kemar Roofe (Rangers, Scotland), Romario Williams (Qadsia Sporting Club, Kuwait)
Jamaica’s FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifiers
2 September | Mexico (a)
5 September | Panama (h)
8 September | Costa Rica (a)
7 October | USA (a)
10 October | Canada (h)
13 October | Honduras (a)
12 November | El Salvador (a)
16 November | USA (h)
27 January | Mexico (h)
30 January | Panama (a)
2 February | Costa Rica (h)
24 March | El Salvador (h)
27 March | Canada (a)
30 March | Honduras (h)
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