Iceland coach arrives on four-year deal and kicks off with World Cup ambition for Jamaica
Heimir Hallgrimsson has been officially unveiled as head coach of Jamaica on a four-year deal, with his ultimate goal of taking the Reggae Boyz to the 2026 FIFA World Cup finals.
It was no secret that Hallgrimsson, who sensationally guided his native Iceland team to the 2018 World finals in Russia, would kick-off his Caribbean adventure with the ambitious Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).
Yet this is a real coup for the JFF, who have a lucrative shirt deal with German firm adidas for both the Boyz and 2023 World Cup-bound Reggae Girlz, and indeed the entire region.
Jamaica have been in the doldrums for years. They only had interim head coaches since stalwart Theodore Whitmore was unceremoniously given the boot by the JFF last December. England-based Paul Hall stepped up from assistant coach, but failed to improve performances in Jamaica’s remaining six CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
With the Boyz missing out on reaching the highly lucrative World Cup finals in Qatar this November and December, the JFF have upped the ante to try to qualify for the finals in four years.
As Canada, Mexico and the United States all play co-hosts of the 2026 World Cup, then newly-installed Hallgrimsson has the most simplistic task ever gifted to a Jamaica coach to qualify for football’s showpiece tournament.
JFF president Michael Ricketts said during a press event at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston: “Welcome to what I am going to call a game-changing event. This is an important part of the new start that has begun at the Jamaican Football Federation.
“I want to use this opportunity to call on Jamaica [fans and businesses] for more commitment, more loyalty, more optimism as we try to change the football direction.”
The new coach has been tasked to develop the sport across the island as well as qualify for the 2026 World Cup finals. His assistant will be Merron Gordon, the Jamaican who had been working under Hall and recently took charge as interim coach for two matches in Austria.
Hallgrimsson, 55, revealed: “I’m honoured and I’m grateful, but most of all excited for this opportunity. My first impression of Jamaica is a very positive one.
“We have a year until we start the play-offs or the group stage for the World Cup, so we have to start quickly to try to find and stabilise the Jamaican national team.
“The second job is assisting in improving football locally here in Jamaica, in coaching education and working with elite players, and we are happy to be a part of this and assist in that.
“But while doing this, we all know that in every match there is pressure to win and no coach will survive in his job without winning football matches.”
He brilliantly led Iceland to the 2016 UEFA European Championships quarter-finals. He then qualified for 2018 Russia, but Hallgrimsson resigned after Iceland failed to navigate their way out of the group stages at the last World Cup finals.
He soon returned to club football, taking over the helm at Qatari team Al-Arabi on a two-and-a-half year contract that expired last year.
Although Hallgrimsson hit the jackpot with Iceland, a similar sized island to Jamaica, he took a few years to hone locally-based players to compete at the finals of prestigious international tournaments.
Whether he can repeat the feat with Jamaica, rather than rely so heavily on the vast majority of his squad comprising those who ply their trade in Europe and North America, remains to be seen.
He has a string of ageing stars from outside the island, so his plans will surely bring through players that will shape the future of Jamaican football and put the country back on the football world map.
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