Tony Becca: Reggae Boyz, or who?
The so-called Reggae Boyz, the team of mostly English born and bred sons of Jamaican fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers residing in England, made Jamaica proud recently by their unexpectedly good performances in two regional tournaments.
I watched all the matches televised in Jamaica and I enjoyed every one of them, except for the last one and except for one thing.
Playing in the COPA America, the Reggae Boyz never won the title, they lost all three matches, but they lost all by one goal. They lost to Uruguay 1-0, to Paraguay 1-0 and to Argentina, also 1-0.
Playing in the Gold Cup, they never won the title, but they never lost a match in the preliminary round, drawing 2-2 with Costa Rica, beating Canada 1-0 and El Salvador also 1-0. They then defeated Haiti 1-0 in the quarter-final, before defeating the United States of America (USA) 2-1 for the first time on American soil, to reach the final for the first time.
In the final, however, they lost 1-3 to Mexico in a match in which they were outplayed and in which they made a few crippling mistakes.
Going into the Gold Cup final, throughout the two tournaments, the Reggae Boyz defence was rock solid, but in the final against Mexico, the defence let them down, so much so that Mexico arrogantly replaced their captain and their first goalscorer in the 60th minute; and that the Jamaican goal, as good as it was, appeared nothing but a consolation effort in the 80th minute.
The team, however, played well, almost brilliantly, throughout the tournaments, drawing with Costa Rica - who made it to the last eight in the last World Cup; lost 1-0 to Uruguay - former World Cup champions; and lost 1-0 to Argentina - former World Cup champions and the number one ranked team in the world.
After drawing with Costa Rica and beating Canada, El Salvador and Haiti, all by one goal, they silenced a huge a flag-waving home crowd of Americans by defeating and shocking the USA.
good run for Boyz
Although the Reggae Boyz lost to Mexico, winners of the Gold Cup on seven occasions, they had a good run, playing nine matches, drawing one, winning four and losing three.
Their passing, at times and especially against Mexico, was beautiful to see. It was almost delightful to see and at times, it was almost as accurate as tic-tac football.
They lost the game against Mexico, not so much because of Michael Hector's errors, but also because of their failure to do the right things when they did not have the ball. They failed to mark the Mexican attackers time and time again, such as when Mexico, under pressure for the first 15 minutes of the match, got away and Andres Guardado scored Mexico's first goal.
It was, however, a lovely run, probably the best in the history of the Reggae Boyz.
In 1998, getting to France and the World Cup was good. This time, however, it may even have been better. This time they took on teams like Costa Rica, Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina with Lionel Messi and company and gave a good account of themselves, giving up only five goals in those four matches.
The Reggae Boyz of 2015 were magnificent.
Congrats to president Horace Burrell and coach Winfried Schafer on a job well done, even if they gave away all of the US$500,000 second prize Gold Cup money and promised the Boyz 100 percent of the one million US dollars first prize-money had they won the Gold Cup.
I wonder if a team of only local footballers would have gotten away with that kind of deal when, in fact, they were representing Jamaica, and when the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) deserved some of that money to help its development programs or to assist in paying airfares, hotel bills, etcetera, for the players.
That aside, however, from now on, even though the team was made up of mostly average players out of England, the Reggae Boyz will not be the same. The Reggae Boyz will not win, or draw, all the time, but probably they will never ever again be taken lightly wherever they may play.
There is one thing that I did not enjoy, one thing that did not seem right. The Reggae Boyz were mostly from England and thus were strangers to Jamaicans.
Founder of Cavalier Soccer Club, Leighton Duncan, once dreamt that a day like this would come. He dreamt, however, that it would come from the boots of players like Art and Asher Welsh, Ruddy Pierce and Neville Oxford, or from their sons or grandsons, dedicated players born and bred in Jamaica.
Duncan, the former Jamaica player and national coach, never dreamt that they would come from so far away, at least not so many of them.
He always felt that they could come from the diaspora, but only those who felt so inclined, those who expressed a desire to do so and those who really wanted to play for Jamaica, providing the space was available.
I love to see good football and I love to win. I, more than anything else, also love to see Jamaica play good football and I also love to see the players, or a team of mostly born and bred Jamaicans, win.
A national team must, or should reflect the level of football in the country, the playing conditions, the nutritional level, the skill level, the coaching and the competitive level if it is to mean anything to people, to be their team.
Anything else cannot last. Anything else is fooling the people. It is not Jamaica's football, nor is it representative of Jamaica, or of the Reggae Boyz.