Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Bringing back the glory - Whitmore wants to celebrate historic WCup qualification with game against Brazil's 1998 team

Published:Sunday | June 10, 2018 | 12:00 AMAkino Ming
Coach Theodore Whitmore (right) gives instructions to members of the national senior football team during a training session last year.
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Around this time every four years, Theodore Whitmore and his then teammates on Jamaica's men senior team are bombarded with questions about their historic qualification and short campaign at the 1998 World Cup in France.

But instead of recounting the memories this time, Whitmore is hoping to re-enact the France 1998 campaign here in Jamaica to commemorate 20 years since the country played in its first and only World Cup.

"I think a fitting way to celebrate playing in the World Cup is getting back the 1998 team together and we play a match with a Brazil 1998 team inside the National Stadium," Whitmore told The Sunday Gleaner. "Even if we don't get Brazil, we could get a team that played in the 1998 World Cup to come to Jamaica and play inside the National Stadium."

Whitmore, who is now the head coach of the senior Reggae Boyz team, said that the Jamaica Football Federation is planning a celebration for November of this year.

"They are planning something, but we are not sure what they are planning yet," Whitmore said.

"Playing in the World Cup was great - knowing that everybody was glued to their TV and to know that we were actually a part of it."

Whitmore scored two goals in Jamaica's only victory in the campaign against Japan.

"The night before the game, we were sitting in the room and (Ricardo) 'Bibi' Gardner said, 'A you start this, enuh', and the next day, I just went out there, and I got two goals. I was going for the hat-trick, but it didn't work," Whitmore recalls.

Now that he is charged with the task of leading the country to its next World Cup, Whitmore is in the process of implementing a new style of play that will be used by all teams in the national programme.

He said that implementing a style of play from the grass-roots level would give a clear indication of where the football programme is going.

"It is something that we have been having a discussion around," Whitmore said. "I agree with what is being said because all the time, we have been hearing that Jamaica's team must play like a Brazil or Argentina, and I think we have to play like Jamaica. Create our own style.

"I think we overachieved in 1998, and then after that, everybody thought that Jamaica's team had a God-given right to qualify without putting the proper things in place."

Having a unique style of play is one of the things Whitmore is putting in place to ensure that Jamaica qualifies for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.