Tue | Apr 13, 2021

No time to waste – Whitmore

Published:Tuesday | March 2, 2021 | 12:20 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
United States midfielder Christian Pulisic (right) heads the ball above Jamaica midfielder Devon Williams during the second half of a Concacaf Gold Cup semi-final match Wednesday, July 3, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee. The US won 3-1.
United States midfielder Christian Pulisic (right) heads the ball above Jamaica midfielder Devon Williams during the second half of a Concacaf Gold Cup semi-final match Wednesday, July 3, 2019, in Nashville, Tennessee. The US won 3-1.
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Head coach of the national senior men’s football team, Theodore Whitmore, stressed the importance of intensifying their build-up to the Gold Cup tournament and FIFA World Cup qualifiers, with preparations set to continue later this month, when the...

Head coach of the national senior men’s football team, Theodore Whitmore, stressed the importance of intensifying their build-up to the Gold Cup tournament and FIFA World Cup qualifiers, with preparations set to continue later this month, when the Reggae Boyz face the United States in an international friendly.

In a Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) virtual press conference held yesterday, President Michael Ricketts announced the details of the match, which will be held on March 25 in Wiener Neustadt, Austria.

Among the other major items discussed were an update on the contract situation with the players, as well as the status of West Ham forward Michail Antonio, who recently confirmed his desire to play for Jamaica.

Meanwhile, the USA friendly will be Jamaica’s first of the new year and first since their two-game international friendly series against Saudi Arabia four months ago.

Whitmore says it was imperative that they made use of the limited time they have, given that the Gold Cup will begin in July and the final round of World Cup qualifiers will commence two months later in September.

“We need to be in competition mode on all fronts. For this reason and others, this game announced against the USA is extremely critical for team building, chemistry and assessment,” Whitmore said.

“Ideally, four or five games with the group would be fantastic for our preparation objectives. However, we understand the limitations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It has really upended a lot of things,” he added.

ABRUPT END TO CAMP

Among the things that have been affected was the abrupt end to the local camp at the JFF/UWI/Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence, which according to Sports Minister Olivia Grange did not get clearance to take place.

Additionally, the contract situation with the players is still yet to be resolved. To that end, Whitmore says that all outstanding issues must be resolved so that the focus can shift solely towards their two major assignments.

“The [US game] will be a very good test of our readiness as a unit. I do not want any distractions or side issues as we need to be 100 per cent concentrated on our remaining objectives,” Whitmore said. “All outstanding issues must therefore be resolved before then, as we are not guaranteed another opportunity before the Gold Cup.”

Harbour View head coach Ludlow Bernard has welcomed the United States assignment and believes that the game will be mutually beneficial for both teams. Five of Jamaica’s first seven World Cup qualifying games will be away from home, including against the United States in October.

“It’s a big and testing occasion for our players. Clearly, [the USA are] one of the top two teams in the region and certainly it should give us a good benchmark as to exactly where we are in terms of our progress,” Bernard said. They [USA] probably respect the quality Jamaica has and certainly [the match] would serve as a yardstick for them as well as to how they can boost their squad.”

Meanwhile, Ricketts confirmed that the 30-year-old Antonio has started the process of obtaining his Jamaican passport to be cleared to play for the Reggae Boyz.

Ricketts said that the JFF met with Antonio and his agent on Sunday and expressed his “absolute desire” to represent Jamaica and said that they are looking at options to expedite the process to have him available for selection as soon as possible.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com

In a nutshell

• Coach calls for quick resolution of salary issues

• Michail Antonio commits to Jamaica

• Jamaica face USA in Austria on March 25