McAnuff mellowing with age
The finest wines, they say, mellow with age.
On the pitch, at a stage where many top footballers would have passed their prime, Reggae Boy Jobi McAnuff is pouring out some displays of infinite quality.
The 33-year-old midfielder's latest serving was sumptuous, whether through the calming passes across the pitch, dinks one way then going the other while skilfully scything his way between Uruguayan opponents in Saturday evening's Copa AmÈrica opener for Jamaica at the Calvo y BascuÒ·n Regional Stadium here.
There was one blip on that performance though: Jamaica's 1-0 loss to a 52nd-minute goal by Cristi·n Rodriguez.
On the strength of McAnuff and his team's play, they deserved better. He is past 30, but the British-based Reggae Boy is not yet ready to throw in the towel. He feels he is still good enough to rub shoulders with the best.
"The age thing is a factor in a lot of other people's minds rather than my own. I think that if you look at people that look after themselves and know how to manage their body, you can play well into your 30s and do well, and it's the form I'm in and want to continue doing for as long as possible," he remarked.
"I know that time isn't on my side in the long run, but I still feel as fit and strong and have the desire to compete at the highest level, which this is, so it's a fantastic opportunity for everybody to showcase their own skills and ability on the biggest stage other than the World Cup."
Besides Uruguay (15 titles), the tournament includes Brazil, the five-time World Cup champions, and Argentina, another two-time World Cup winners whose 14 titles are the second highest in Copa. Brazil are third with eight successes.
Big countries mean big names, meaning, some of the game's top players - including Argentina's Lionel Messi and Brazil's Neymar, who both represent European and Spanish champions Barcelona - are among the participants. Uruguay's Luis Suarez, also ranked among the world's best, is suspended from the tournament for a biting incident at the last World Cup, but his team includes other big stars such as Edinson Cavani, who was flocked by some of Jamaica's players for photos after Saturday's game.
After watching one of the tournament's earliest games, McAnuff, who started out at Wimbledon, captained Reading in the Premier League recently and now plays at League One Leyton Orient, attested to the star quality at Copa and its motivational effect, even at this stage of his career.
"You can't be among the calibre of opposition that we are and not (be motivated)," he said, while pointing to the Chile vs Mexico game at the weekend, where a number of top-quality players were on show.
"For me, when you're among that, you try and raise your game. For example, Messi for Argentina, there are two ways to look at him: I'm not sure if I should be here or that it should inspire me and I want to be on the same stage as him. To be here, that's why you play the game. We're all at different stages of our careers. Some are younger players and want to get there and stay there for as long, at the top level, and it should be a real motivational tool for everybody," said McAnuff, looking forward to today's second Group B match against Paraguay and the final one against Argentina on June 20.