Theodore Whitmore has yet to confirm his squad that will tackle world-ranked no.11 side Mexico in their opening World Cup qualifier on 2 September.
And the Jamaica head coach, who is unable to include his sprinkling of players who ply their trade in the English top tier, could see his Reggae Boyz denied playing their home matches in Kingston.
With the Covid-19 situation worsening across the Caribbean island, Jamaica Football Federation (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). And today a leading UK travel company cancelled holidays to the island.
Already the English Premier League has banned players travelling to red list nations during the September international break, which is when Jamaica have three fixtures scheduled in a bid to reach the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The UK government’s quarantine restrictions mean that any British-based players who travel to represent Jamaica in September would be forced to spend 10 days in a managed quarantine hotel.
This means that West Ham striker Michail Antonio, who has just received his Jamaican passport, will likely not be selected in Whitmore’s squad. Other notable absentees will be Watford forward Andre Gray and Aston Villa’s new signing Leon Bailey.
However, FIFA are considering the postponement of World Cup qualifiers because 26 countries will be affected by the Premier League’s refusal to allow players to travel, and the Spanish top flight has since followed their stance.
Mexico head coach Gerardo Martino included Wolverhampton Wanderers’ striker Raul Jimenez in his 28-strong squad, who will not be permitted to play.
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 are provisionally due to kick-off the region’s 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 on 8 September. Costa Rica is the sole Central American national team to have played in five FIFA World Cup editions.
Both Costa Rica and Mexico are on the UK’s red-listed countries, meaning that they are deemed to be high risk for Covid-19 by the UK government. Panama is the only other nation in the eight-team competition on the red list, with Jamaica 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.
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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