Reggae Boyz, or who? - Jamaica football team manager responds
Dear 'Uncle Tony',
Yes, I take the liberty of calling you 'Uncle Tony' because of how much you mean to me.
As a sports-mad boy growing up, I took delight in reading your reports and columns, particularly on cricket, when West Indies cricket, at its pinnacle, defined us (the people of the Caribbean). The esteem in which I hold you remains.
Having got that out of the way, Uncle Tony, I must say I almost fell off my chair two Sundays ago as I flipped through the sports pages of The Sunday Gleaner to devour your column with childish glee, only to be sobered up by the headline 'Reggae Boyz, or who?' and the contents within. Though you tried to be your usual balanced self, you lost your line and length in some of your pronouncements and conclusions.
I will start by looking at the composition of the Gold Cup squad. A provisional list of 35 players was submitted to CONCACAF, from which 23 were selected for final submission. Ten of the original 35 were born outside of Jamaica, and the remaining 25 were born here (Jamaica).
The provisional squad (with those born overseas highlighted in bold) is as follows:
GK (4) - AndrÈ Blake (Philadelphia Union/USA); DuWayne Kerr (Sarpsborg 08/Norway); Dwayne Miller (Syrianska/Sweden); Ryan Thompson (Pittsburgh Riverhounds/USA).
DF (12) - Shawn Cummings (Millwall/England); Daniel Gordon (Karlsruher SC/Germany); Hughan Gray (Waterhouse FC/Jamaica); Michael Hector (Reading/England); Lance Laing (FC Edmonton/Canada); Kemar Lawrence (New York Red Bulls/USA); Adrian Mariappa (Crystal Palace/England); Sean McFarlane (Florida International University/USA); Wes Morgan (Leicester City/England); Demar Phillips (Real Salt Lake/USA); Alvas Powell (Portland Timbers/USA); Jermaine Taylor (Houston Dynamo/USA).
MF (10) - Rodolph Austin (unattached); Simon Dawkins (Derby County/England); Joel Grant (Yeovil Town/England); Omar Holness (University of North Carolina/USA); Christopher Humphrey (Preston North End/England); Renae Lloyd (Arnett Gardens/Jamaica); Joel McAnuff (Leyton Orient/England); Garath McCleary (Reading/England); Je-Vaughn Watson (FC Dallas/USA); Jermaine Woozencroft (Montego Bay United/Jamaica).
F (9) - Giles Barnes (Houston Dynamo/USA); AndrÈ Clennon (Arnett Gardens/Jamaica); Jamar Loza (Norwich City/England); Darren Mattocks (Vancouver Whitecaps/Canada); Dever Orgill (IFK Marieham/Finland); Allan Ottey (Montego Bay United/Jamaica); Romeo Parkes (Isidro Metapan/El Salvador); Michael Seaton (Orebro/Sweden); Dino Williams (Montego Bay United/Jamaica).
The final 23 (plus two) consisted of eight players born in the UK and 17 in Jamaica (Omar Holness and Sean McFarlane replaced Alvas Powel and Jermaine Taylor after the first round.)
That certainly does not translate to: "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 ... ."
Uncle Tony, your column also included the assumption that the bonus package agreed to by the players and the Federation was arrived at largely because of the demands made by these 'foreigners'.
"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 programmes or to assist in paying airfares, hotel bills, etcetera, for the players," you wrote.
The negotiations were led by the most senior players, including players who were locally raised and developed before moving to play overseas. They move as one, and have for some time been living the team motto: 'All for one, one for all'.
"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," is another statement of yours that requires review.
As previously stated, eight (8) players born in the United Kingdom were engaged for the tournament. McAnuff, Mariappa (Watford & Crystal Palace), McCleary played in the 2013-14 EPL season for Reading FC - McAnuff was captain of the team. Morgan plays for Leicester City, Hector for Reading FC, Dawkins (Derby County), Grant (last played for Yeovil Town), and Barnes (Houston Dynamo - MLS).
McCleary and Hector still play for Reading FC, now relegated to the Football League Championship (second-highest division in England).
Mariappa and Wes Morgan currently play for Crystal Palace and Leicester City, respectively, in the EPL. Morgan has been captain of Leicester City since 2012, and was selected in 'The Football Manager Team of the Decade' in April.
Dawkins has been a regular starter at Derby County, was pivotal in their third-place finish in the 2013-14 season where they lost in the final to Queens Park Rangers for promotion to the EPL. He also played for Tottenham Hotspur, Leyton Orient (loan), San Jose Earthquakes - MLS (loan) - and Aston Villa.
Grant represented Jamaica at the Under-20 and Under-23, while Barnes played in England from 2005- 2012 for Derby County, making his debut as a 17-year-old, and was named Derby County's Young Player of the Year for the 2006-07 season. He was pivotal in Derby's promotion to the Premier League for the 2007-08 season. Injury kept him out for most of the season, but he returned to play for Fulham (on loan) in the 2008-2009 Premier League season, then at West Bromwich Albion (2010-11) and Doncaster Rovers (2011-12), before moving to the MLS.
Mariappa was enticed to play for Fiji and refused in order to represent Jamaica. Grant's mother has returned to Jamaica since he was 15, setting up home in St Catherine, where she still resides with his younger sister and stepfather. Grant declared that his decision to represent Jamaica was made as an 11-year-old while on a visit to the country after watching a Reggae Boyz match at 'the Office'. Walter Boyd and Theodore were his idols, he said.
Dawkins' now-deceased mother, the one who nurtured his dream of playing for 'home', Jamaica, and who made the trips to the country herself to ensure his citizenship was sorted out, insisted that her son travel to Jamaica to compete in the 2014 Caribbean Cup, while she battled an illness that ultimately took her life earlier this year. He continues to play for her and with her in his heart.
McAnuff's roots in Jamaica are solid. The former outstanding sprinter, Nicole Mitchell, is his cousin, and former parliamentarian, Phyllis Mitchell, his aunt. His father instilled in him a love for Jamaica, which he refers to as 'home'.
I travelled to Lamb's River, Westmoreland, on an early Saturday morning to find an elder relative in the district to sign the declaration form for Barnes' grandmother. The entire district was in a frenzy to know that Miss Cleghorn's grandson would become a Reggae Boy.
Perhaps we need to fully look at what makes a Jamaican a Jamaican. Until that time, one love!
Reggae Boyz manager