Could English-born players help get Jamaica back to a World Cup? Or will the contract dispute derail everything?
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How good are Jamaica currently?
It’s fair to say Jamaica have been on the periphery of global men’s international football for a long time now.
Their one and only appearance at a FIFA World Cup was in 1998, failing in five qualification campaigns since then.
In more recent times, the Reggae Boyz did appear at the Copa Américas of 2015 and 2016 but went out in the group stages both times, losing all six matches.
However, in CONCACAF terms, Jamaica have been growing force.
They reached the finals of the Gold Cup in 2015 and 2017 and were beaten semi-finalists in the most recent edition, 2019, losing 3-1 to the United States in Nashville.
Despite this, it’s their 23 year exile from the World Cup that they are desperate to end.
How are the Jamaica Football Federation trying to change this?
West Ham United’s English midfielder Michail Antonio (L) celebrates scoring his team’s second goal during the English Premier League football match between West Ham United and West Bromwich Albion at The London Stadium, in east London on January 19, 2021. (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. (Photo by MATTHEW CHILDS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
In an attempt to make their men’s national team more competitive, the Jamaica Football Federation have been busy.
They’ve been attempting to recruit mainly English-born players with Jamaican heritage who have not been capped elsewhere at senior level.
So, in the last international window in March, six players currently playing in the EFL Championship made their Jamaica debuts in a friendly against USA.
They are Amari’i Bell (Blackburn), Liam Moore (Reading), Ethan Pinnock (Brentford), Kasey Palmer (Bristol City), Andre Gray (Watford) and Jamal Lowe (Swansea).
Lowe was the scorer in the 4-1 defeat.
They lined-up alongside Adrian Mariappa of Bristol City and Fulham’s Michael Hector who both have far more international experience with 50 and 33 caps respectively.
Given all of that, here’s a potential XI Jamaica could name based on now capped players.
What could their XI currently look like?
Jamaica Men’s National Team XI.
Even after this recruitment policy, Leon Bailey of Bayer Leverkusen remains the star despite only having eight caps to his name so far,
Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid was one of the first English-born players brought into this squad.
He was not apart of their latest roster but does have four caps, scoring on his debut in 2019 against Antigua & Barbuda in the CONCACAF Nations League.
The highly talented Ravel Morrison is another player who’s been capped, making his debut against Saudi Arabia last October.
However, he’s currently without a club and withdrew from the latest squad.
The starting XI above is full of quality, mainly Championship level, and is certainly capable of challenging for Gold Cups and, potentially, for World Cup qualification too.
However, the Jamaican Football Federation aren’t stopping there.
In March, Michail Antonio declared he would play for Jamaica and is expected to make his international debut this summer.
Also, JFF president Michael Ricketts said that Mason Holgate, Isaac Hayden, Nathan Redmond, Kemar Roofe, Ivan Toney and Demarai Gray are all in the process of acquiring Jamaican passports.
If all of those switched allegiance their XI could look like this.
What could their XI potentially look like?
Jamaica Men’s National Team potential XI.
If Jamaica was putting out an XI like this in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, they’d be a serious contender with a plethora of attacking options.
Other players such as Max Aarons (Norwich), Tyrese Campbell (Stoke), Nathan Ferguson (Crystal Palace), Lewis Baker (Trabzonspor) and Reece Oxford (Augsburg) are also eligible and are not cap-tied to another national team.
If they can get all of these players on board, the Reggae Boyz would certainly be ones to watch in international football.
What’s going on with the long-standing internationals?
Despite this, it’s not all be good news for the Jamaican Football Federation.
Five of Jamaica’s established international’s did not feature in March’s friendly against the United States as they’ve rejected the contract offered by the JFF.
This essentially means the Federation are either unwilling or unable to pay them reasonable fees for appearing in matches in various competitions.
These reportedly include captain Andre Blake (45 caps), Kemar Lawrence (60 caps), Alvas Powell (49 caps) and Damion Lowe (22 caps).
This is also not a new thing; Lowe started negotiating with the JFF in January of last year and the whole talks were leaked which annoyed both parties.
Also, the Women’s National Team, who did qualify for their last World Cup France 2019, have also threatened to boycott matches over contractual terms.
Even if they do get all the aforementioned new players on board, Jamaica are going to need the spine of their existing squad too if they’re achieve anything substantial.
Hopefully for them, a resolution can be found before this summer’s Gold Cup where they’ll face Costa Rica, Suriname and winner preliminary match 8 (probably Guatemala) in Group C.
Will Jamaica qualify for Qatar 2022?
DOHA, QATAR – SEPTEMBER 03: The Official Emblem of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™️ is unveiled in Doha’s Souq Waqif on the Msheireb – Qatar National Archive Museum building on September 03, 2019 in Doha, Qatar. The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™️ Official Emblem was projected on to a number of iconic buildings in Qatar and across the Arab world and displayed on outdoor digital billboards in more than a dozen renowned public spaces major cities. (Photo by Christopher Pike/Getty Images for Supreme Committee 2022)
Overall, Jamaica could have a very good chance of qualifying for the next World Cup.
As one of the five highest-ranked nations in the continent, they’ll start their campaign in the third and final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
USA, Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica also receive byes to the third round where they’ll be joined by the three second round winners.
These could be Trinidad & Tobago, Canada and Curaçao/Panama.
Either way, in the Octagonal Round, the top three qualify for World Cup 2022 with fourth advancing to the Inter-confederation play-offs.
As ever, the U.S. and Mexico are likely to finish in the top two spots but third and fourth are very much up for grabs.
There are a few problems at the JFF right now but they’ve still got time to sort those out before their matchday one fixture away to CONCACAF champions Mexico in September.
It’ll be fascinating to see if this new look Jamaica can qualify for Qatar.