The recent two-match friendly series between Jamaica and Saudi Arabia have seen the Reggae Boyz climb one place in the Fifa ranking up to 47th after losing the first, then winning the second game in a tour plagued by problems.
The role played by Head Coach Theodore Whitmore on that particular tour has come in for praise from the general secretary of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), Dalton Wint, who explained the challenges that Whitmore had to overcome.
“He had to take about 13 players to train for one session, he was not allowed to train the others who had their result pending.”
Ahead of the start of the first game a number of seasoned professionals were unavailable for selection due to their late arrival as a result of club commitments. This hampered the preparations of the team which ultimately resulted in a 0-3 loss to Saudi Arabia.
“Saudi Arabia has their policy, you must do a test after 48 hours of being in the country for you to be able to move around and so that [could] not be done in time for [the more experienced players] to train and to play the game. They were fortunate enough that the time expired during the time to play the game.
“They were told about an hour or two before the game that they were allowed to play in the game. He (Whitmore) had to use them as substitutes.
Wint revealed that some players were apprehensive ahead of the first game but Whitmore showed strength in leadership, insisting that the Boyz should soldier on despite the circumstances.
“The coach knew that he would have some difficulties organising his players because he had to be playing people out of position, because of the fact that some people weren’t available to him. He knew that, he decided, we spoke about it, we had a meeting and he decided that the team must play.
“Players were a little bit apprehensive, afraid to catch the virus. It’s new to everybody, there was some nervousness but we were able to calm them down and reassure them that we put everything for them to be safe and the coach decided that we are there to play football…and we must play.
“I must give credit to [Theodore] because he chose a team, he had limited resources and tactically we were not that bad. We made some mistakes and we lost the game.”
Wint suggested that the challenges experienced in Saudi Arabia could become the norm in 2021 when qualifications for both the Concacaf Gold Cup and Fifa World Cup begin.
“We were struggling about whether or not we should think about heading back home but that was not possible because we are soldiers, we are preparing to play World Cup qualifiers. These situations I think might exist by the time June comes around and so we are preparing ourselves, it’s just that we have made some mistakes and we are learning from them.
“The fact is, it’s difficult times, it’s not the usual time that we [are] used to having to participate in games. It is a pandemic that we are going through, none of us have lived through one and so it throws some curve balls and so we had to prepare ourselves to be able to manage and manoeuvre the situation.
“That’s one of the reasons why we took the game in Saudi Arabia, to prepare ourselves mentally and physically to participate in something like this going forward, which might be a must as it relates to a World Cup qualifier. We will have no choice at that time.”
The general secretary also spoke of the vibe in the dressing room after the win in the second game after the disappointing loss in the first game.
“It was very exciting and all the players were in a jubilant mood. They knew what they could offer and they were a little bit disappointed that they could not do that in the first game. They assured us that they would win the second game. There was no doubting it because they were upbeat, they were ready, they had some sessions and they were prepared for the game.”
The Reggae Boyz now celebrate 12 months inside the Fifa top 50 rankings.
(Courtesy of the Jamaica Observer)