Fri | Oct 20, 2017

Follow the Trace | Impressed, but not amused

Published:Tuesday | May 31, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica’s Clayton Donaldson (fourth right) celebrates scoring a goal against Chile, whose star midfielder, Alexis Sanchez (right), reacts during Friday night’s friendy international football match in Santiago, Chile. Jamaica won 2-1.

The Reggae Boyz 'massive' 2-1 win over South America champions Chile, in Chile, should go down as one of the greatest achievements in Jamaica's chequered football history.

The Chileans are the number three ranked team in the world and fielded close to a full- strength team. In that context , not only was it a great result, but the overall performance of the Jamaicans was arguably even more impressive.

As coach Winfried Schafer and his team fine-tune their preparation for the upcoming Copa Centenario with what must be heightened levels of confidence and optimism, football fans in Jamaica are left with a bittersweet taste in our mouths, as well as residual feelings of sadness and pessimism.

We are still trying to reconcile the performance of our team against Chile and, indeed, carrying over from the Copa AmÈrica and CONCACAF Gold Cup tournaments last year and the dismal, almost hopeless state of our Russia 2018 World Cup Qualifying campaign.

How and why can the Reggae Boyz be that proficient and flat-out impressive against a world-class team like Chile, yet we struggle against the likes of Nicaragua, Panama and Costa Rica as we fight to stay afloat and are indeed heading for the exit in the semi-final round of World Cup Qualifying?

Outside of the inexcusable, foolhardy, and self-defeating strategy by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) of opting not to play a single warm-up game at the National Stadium for close to three years, many local fans are struggling to understand the glaring disparity in the way the team seems focused and driven to play against these top teams in warm-up games and in these relatively meaningless tournaments as opposed to the pathetic efforts and results seen in World Cup Qualifying.

 

BRINK OF ELIMINATION

 

This very same Jamaican team, guided by the very same coaching staff, that was so classy in dispatching the champions of South America in their backyard, in their last three World Cup Qualifiers played at home against Nicaragua, Panama, and Costa Rica, have garnered one single point from a possible nine and are effectively on the brink of elimination from the semi-final round of World Cup Qualifying.

There is an apparent disconnect between the Jamaican coaching staff and the players and the bewildered fans as it relates to the relative importance of these international assignments. Coach Schafer himself appears nonchalant and carefree about our position in World Cup Qualifying as apparently are many the players, who appear not to care about making it to Russia 2018.

The body language, and more importantly, the attitude of the players, as reflected in their performances, suggest that positive results against teams like Chile and being impressive in the Copa Centenario tournament are much more important than beating out Costa Rica and Panama for a place in the final round of qualifying for the World Cup Finals.

Maybe it's a new way of thinking and a generational shift of priority that passed me by, but while surely applauding the impressive show against Chile, many local fans remain bemused when they look at the bigger picture.