JFF on the edge as key players could miss WCQ

A football on a field
A football on a field (Photo credit: Pixabay)

Anticipation is high as the Reggae Boyz get ready to kick start their World Cup campaign with three matches in September. But it will not be smooth sailing for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) who are now faced with getting the UK-based players here for the qualifiers which kick off with the 2 September away to Mexico.

According to JFF general secretary, Dalton Wint, things are far from smooth and are getting more difficult with the COVID-19 restrictions. “I wouldn’t use the term going smoothly, but we are getting there. We have been planning for a while now but every minute of the day as we get closer to 2 September, we have some new challenges. We have challenges in that we will not be having spectators at the national stadium, we have the challenges of our players being available based on where they are coming from and we are going into two red zone countries – Mexico and Costa Rica.”

Most of the players in the national squad are based in England and, as a result, the JFF must now negotiate their way around the travel restrictions put in place by the UK Government. Wint said they would approach the Jamaican Government for help with this.

“The fact is that England and most of the European countries have banned travel to red zone countries. Costa Rica and Mexico are red zone countries so we will possibly have some challenges there. We have to use our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and see how best they can assist us. We have started the process. I think it will be a tremendous blow if we fail to get the players as most of them have been used to prepare for this upcoming fixture and the technical staff is banking on these players. It will pose a little challenge if they are not available,” added Wint.

When the Reggae Boyz take on Panama on 5 September at the National Stadium, it will be their first game at the venue since October 2019 when they played Aruba in the CONCACAF nation’s league.

It also means that there are several members of the squad who will be playing for the first time at the venue, you could say a home away from home.

However, Wint is optimistic that the Reggae Boyz will do well despite the circumstances. “I think it offers an opportunity for them to do well and a little comfort zone knowing it’s a home game and you wouldn’t have the added pressure of the away fans.”

Jamaicans could also get the chance of seeing English premier league outfit West Ham’s striker Michail Antonio in action as he is now the holder of a Jamaican passport.

Off the field, the JFF is still short of $700 million for the World Cup campaign. Raising these funds is getting more difficult with each problem.

When asked if the JFF had missed out on a marketing strategy now being used by Dutch football club Ajax which sees them using the Bob Marley and the Wailers 1977 hit “Three Little Birds” to pay homage to the relationship between the club and Marley, Wint said no. “No, I don’t think we have missed out, the marketing campaign is a huge overlay of revenue so for us. To do these things will take money. Adidas is doing it for Ajax so if our kit sponsor Umbro had a deal with the Marleys we could have done so, without that you cannot do it,” says Wint.

The move by Ajax is proving so popular that it is now being reported that the club website crashed within minutes as fans visited in droves to try and buy the souvenir jersey which features the colours of the Jamaican flag and a motif with three little birds stitched onto the back. The love story between Ajax and Marley goes back to 2008, when ‘Three Little Birds’ first became a favourite anthem for fans.

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