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Gleaner 180: Dream comes true - Jamaica through to France

Published:Saturday | September 13, 2014 | 9:00 AM
Technical director René Simões celebrates with fans after Jamaica's Reggae Boyz qualified for their first FIFA World Cup on November 16, 1997. - File

On November 16, 1997, Jamaica's Reggae Boyz qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time. A goalless draw with Mexico at the National Stadium was enough to seal the country's place at the 1998 World Cup finals in France. There was massive excitement inside and outside the National Stadium as the country celebrated the history-making feat. Here is how The Gleaner reported the event the following day.

Tym Glaser, Associate Editor - Sport

France here we come. The Jamaica national football team's gruelling march along the road to the World Cup finals in France next year came to a glorious conclusion at the National Stadium yesterday when the hosts claimed the point they needed to take their place alongside 31 other nations at world sports premier event.

When the final whistle blew on Jamaica's goalless draw with Mexico, the excited, capacity stadium crowd erupted in a blur of green and gold and the rest of the country wildly celebrated the Reggae Boyz's history-making feat.

After the match, Prime Minister PJ Patterson declared today a public holiday in honour of the Jamaican team.

Patterson called the result "undoubtedly the greatest day in Jamaica's sporting history".

Jamaica, the first English-speaking Caribbean country to make the World Cup and only the third from the region, advance along with the Mexicans, and the United States from the CONCACAF zone. The game itself was no work of art as the Mexicans and Jamaicans played a cat-and-mouse game through most of the first half with the home side content to pass the ball around in their half of the field while the Mexicans looked on without pressing the attack.

In fact, the high points of the first half came from Boston where the United States had burst to a 2-0 lead over El Salvador, the only team capable of denying Jamaica's trip to France.

The fans chanted "USA, USA" and technical director of football, René Simões, allowed himself a rare smile as the score was relayed to him.

About 10 minutes from full-time the stadium crowd was on its feet and screaming "France, France" as the USA took an insurmountable lead over El Salvador.

When the eagerly awaited game-ending whistle finally sounded, Jamaica's impossible dream had become a reality and the players charged around the field soaking up the greatest moment of their lives.