Captian, is the ship sinking?
I was fortunate enough to have witnessed first-hand the splendid performance of the Reggae Boyz in their return leg World Cup qualifier held in Nicaragua some weeks ago. The absolute jubilation among the handful of Jamaicans present after the second goal, in a very hostile environment, is certainly not a feeling that I will anytime soon forget.
Victory by a two-goal margin guaranteed that the Road to Russia campaign remains alive, but is the campaign doing well'?
Defeat against Nicaragua on aggregate would not only have sealed our fate in the current campaign, but would also have set Jamaica's football back a decade or more as a loss at such an early stage would have had a devastating impact on every facet of the game in Jamaica and the programme as a whole.
That said, in what was an obvious do-or-die situation, I do not think that we have had satisfactory answers pertaining to why so many of our top players from the Gold Cup campaign were noticeably absent for the Nicaragua contests, including the likes of Jobi McAnuff, Wes Morgan, and Gareth McLeary.
Even if the reports I read in the media as to their reasons for being missing in action are true, I think this would pose more questions than answers. Morgan supposedly needed a "rest after a hectic summer"? Really? A rest from two do-or-die World Cup encounters - in the knockout phase, which, for any football professional are games of the utmost importance? A rest for two games that had we lost, would have brought the Road to Russia campaign to a screeching halt before the team bus had even passed Half-Way Tree? Wow!
McAnuff and McLeary's wives were reportedly both in advanced stages of pregnancy, and their devoted husbands could not stand to be far from their sides. Having four beautiful children myself, I know the joys of fatherhood very well, but I, for one, did not have the luxury of turning my back on my profession (or my team) weeks prior to my wife giving birth.
Away for too long
I would be curious to know when exactly both women delivered their babies considering that neither player seems to have made himself available for either match played over a five-day period. In this day and age of air travel, I find it incomprehensible to accept the reasons given in light of the critical nature of both the home and away games.
Those three aside, what about the team's captain, Rudolph Austin, who played in the first game, and, prior to the ultimate do-or-die return leg in Nicaragua, reportedly had to go to Mexico to sort out some visa issues pertaining to a new club contract? Again, while that trip was no doubt important to his career, it is not as if he skipped some meaningless scrimmage in the town square, but a game that could have spelled the demise of football in our country for a very long time! It was also stated that Austin may have had concerns playing on the artificial pitch in Nicaragua due to past injuries. But even if he chose not to play, wouldn't the presence of the team's inspirational leader and captain on the sidelines or in the dressing room have had some serious upside? What am I missing?
No real explanation
The rumours circulating as to the real reasons for so many of our top players being unavailable do nothing to satisfy my thirst for the truth in light of what I consider to be the deafening silence of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). If the missing players were, in fact, excused by the JFF beforehand, I would liken it to a brain surgeon allowing his anaesthesiologist, his assistant, and his head nurses to go on holiday just prior to, perhaps, his most critical operation!
Just this week, I read where JFF President Captain Horace Burrell is again scouting for talent across the waters. While I commend the good captain for this bold and proactive move, I take this opportunity to remind him that equally important to talent and ability on the Road to Russia campaign are qualities such as grit, determination, loyalty to Jamaica, and a true commitment to the cause at hand.