Back to the Drawing Board for Ambitious JFF

Heimir Hallgrimsson
Author: Neil-Monticelli Harley-Rüdd

Underperforming Reggae Boyz search for new head coach after Heimir Hallgrímsson bites the dust

Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will tackle the remainder of their FIFA World Cup qualifiers with a new head coach after Heimir Hallgrímsson tendered his resignation as coach this week.

The 57-year-old, who was not forced to resign by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), called it quits shortly after the Boyz crashed out of the 2024 Copa America with a hat-trick of defeats and just one goal.

Jamaica fell 1-0 to an experimental Mexico side in their Copa America opener. Michail Antonio scored the nation’s first-ever goal in the prestigious competition during a 3-1 reversal to Ecuador. Yet a shockingly poor second-half against in-form Venezuela meant that Hallgrimsson’s final match was a flattering 3-0 defeat.


The writing had been on the wall for some time for Hallgrimsson, because his relationship with the JFF had been as icy cold as his home country in winter. So his exit was not a great surprise to avid Reggae Boyz fans.

Hallgrimsson was perilously close to leaving his role, which he kicked off in September 2022, following Jamaica’s Nation’s League quarter-final first leg 2-1 defeat to Canada at the National Stadium last November. Yet four days later he somehow masterminded a remarkable and historic away 3-2 win, brilliantly guiding the Boyz on penalties past Canada in the second leg at the BMO Field in Toronto.

The result meant Jamaica would compete in the Copa America, which would prove to be a litmus test of how far the Boyz have come under his guidance.

There were rumours flying around that Hallgrimsson had demanded personal commission from the JFF because each nation at the Copa America would be paid US2million by the organisers. As there was never any form of bonus indicated in his contract, this was a moot point.

This was allegedly just one of a plethora of internal conflicts between Hallgrimsson and  the JFF, who were growing concerned at the team’s results and insipid performances. Fans were getting increasingly frustrated by a constant flow of unconvincing displays, which included two dull unofficial friendlies against relative minnows Trinidad & Tobago in March.

With a favourable draw for the World Cup qualifiers, Hallgrimsson appeared to have no clear idea how to tackle these if their opening two matches in June was any indication. The Boyz squeezed past Dominican Republic 1-0 on home soil then stuttered 3-2 in Dominica. Both sides should have been cannon fodder for a team with such an illustrious recent history as Jamaica.

However, the team appeared disjointed and failed to dominate. The Boyz lack composure on the ball and any conviction in their skills despite the array of individual talents at Hallgrimsson’s disposal.


Therefore the dire record at the Copa America, which ended up as an embarrassment for the JFF in a four-team hit and miss group, proved to be the final nail in the coffin for Halgrimsson’s tenure to make it six defeats in 19 competitive matches.

His overall record of 11 wins, 10 losses and six draws in his 26 matches did not sit well with fans, pundits or indeed the JFF.

Hallgrímsson’s relationship had soured with the JFF so much that it was only a matter of time before he would relinquish his role. Reports are that he left his abode in Jamaica to return on a permanent basis to Iceland in January, and only returned to the Caribbean island when required. He was picking up a full-time salary, but appeared to be working on a part-time basis.

However, Hallgrimsson was travelling around Europe trying to convince players to represent Jamaica. It is understood that he became disillusioned that his travel expenses were not covered by the JFF for this assignment. Although it is believed that the JFF did not give prior approval for these trips, and therefore they would not offer reimbursements.

The JFF were understood to not be encouraging Hallgrimsson to chase players in Europe by allegedly offering to secure Jamaican passports for them. The two parties were seemingly not in alignment about the future make-up of the national squad, with the JFF keen to involve more Jamaica-based players. Otherwise the UWI/JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence in Mona, Kingston, would be redundant and could leave those islanders who gave their heart and soul disenchanted.

Hallgrimsson rarely included players who plied their trade in Jamaica in his squads, and had not got the courage to give future stars like 19-year-old Trench Town-born hot-shot striker Kaheim Dixon a proper run-out with the Boyz.

He seemed to pick his favourites, and his allegiance to Aston Villa ace Leon Bailey became a sticking point with many of his squad members and the JFF. Hallgrimsson reportedly initiated an approach to entice Bailey to compete at the Copa America, even trying to bring him in for the Ecuador clash.

The whizzy winger rejected being selected for the tournament, following his public fall-out with the JFF, and was not interested in representing the Boyz.

As a result there was believed to be a rift between Hallgrimsson and some players, who are believed to have lost faith in the coach after he was so insistent that Bailey should compete. In the end the JFF intervened in the controversy, and officially suspended the 26-year-old from international duties.


After the Ecuador defeat, which meant the Boyz were eliminated after two matches, the mood of the squad hit rock bottom and the team understandably lost heart to underperform against Venezuela.

Hallgrimsson, who since the start of the year was clearly happier being back on the remote island of Heimaey off the south coast of Iceland than in Jamaica, was disillusioned with the JFF. His employer was seemingly becoming increasingly irritated by their national head coach and it had all turned sour.

How very different from when Hallgrimsson was selected by the JFF, with his ultimate goal to take Jamaica to the 2026 World Cup finals. Yet the general Scandinavian attitude of being cold, calculated and super organised could not have been much further from the laid-back and chilled Jamaica persona.

Hallgrimsson had led Iceland to their inaugural FIFA World Cup finals appearance in 2018, but resigned after their abject failure in the tournament. He was selected because of JFF’s ambition, their injection of money following a massive adidas shirt sponsorship for the Reggae Boyz and Reggae Girlz as well as having the experience of coaching at the World Cup finals.

Hallgrimsson failed to produce even one eye-catching display for Jamaica, and his questionable tactics were constantly questioned by all and sundry.

His relationship with the JFF nose-dived to such an extent that it came as no surprise that he offered his resignation following Jamaica’s Copa America debacle. He kicked his tenure off with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Argentina, and ended it by the same scoreline to Venezuela.

Dennis Chung, the JFF general secretary, has gone on record to claim that Hallgrimsson resigned for personal reasons rather than underwhelming performances at the Copa America.

Hallgrimsson had made a name for himself as Iceland head coach, making history in 2018 when they became the smallest-ever nation to participate at the World Cup finals. Following his resignation during the 2018 World Cup in Russia, Hallgrimsson coached Qatar’s Al-Arabi in the Qatari League from 2018 to 2021 before joining Jamaica in their quest to become a highly competitive Caribbean team.

Although no opponents were ever left shaking in their boots against Hallgrimsson’s Jamaica, he steered the nation to 2023 Gold Cup semi-finals and a third-place finish in the last CONCACAF Nations League by grinding out results with unattractive performances.

It is now back to the drawing board for the JFF, who have started their process to find a head coach. The remit for the next man will be to guide the Boyz to the World Cup finals, which will be co-hosted by CONCACAF rivals Canada, Mexico and the United States.


As these three nations have automatically qualified for the next World Cup finals in two years, Jamaica have been given their easiest ever route to return to the sport’s pinnacle tournament.

Already there have been calls from former players to bring back ex-Jamaica head coach Theodore Whitmore, who recently parted ways with Mount Pleasant FC after they failed to retain the Jamaica Premier League title. However, the JFF have improved their purse strings since they unceremoniously axed Whitmore, who played in Jamaica’s only foray to the World Cup finals in 1998.

With so many Jamaican players competing in North America, it would be an ambitious yet practical solution to bring in an established South American head coach who could organise camps and friendlies with club sides in both North and South America. Tweaking the team to gel, rather than flying in talented individuals from Europe who play like a bunch of strangers for Jamaica, would surely pay dividends.

Whoever the JFF decided to appoint, probably on a two-year deal, will not be daunted by the challenge ahead. Although the main strengths of the Boyz are their attacking skills and speed, Hallgrimsson was unable to coax the best out of his talented squad members.

The next head coach will be offered a glorious opportunity for Jamaica to break into FIFA’s top 50 rankings and reach the World Cup finals. Yet he will need to urgently get his strikers to find their scoring boots in order to put the island back on the football map.

Remember to share this article on Facebook and other Social Media Platforms. To submit your own articles or to advertise with us please send us an EMAIL at: [email protected]

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments