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'Important is an understatement' - Duckie happy for Under-23 friendly international games

Published:Tuesday | August 7, 2018 | 12:00 AMMarc Stamp/Gleaner Writer
Members of Jamaica's senior men's football team in a training session, with fitness coach Harry Nelson (right) at Excelsior High School last Thursday. The training squad consists of many players also in the National Under-23 team, which is also preparing for Olympic Games qualifiers.

Donovan Duckie head coach of the national Under-23 team is pleased that the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has secured two friendly games against St Vincent as they continue preparation for the Olympic Games qualifiers.

"The national Under-23 squad will play away to St Vincent on August 24 and 26. These games represent the international kick-off of the preparation of the squad for qualifiers to the Tokyo Olympic Games and shows the JFF commitment," a release stated.

"Honestly, I would say that 'important' is an understatement. It is very, very important for us because international games should be the target and the focus. We are going to play a lot of games locally, but we really welcome these two friendly games against St Vincent," Duckie told The Gleaner yesterday.

"This would be a good way to assess some players, and these games are second to none. When it comes to playing games, these games are crucial as we will be playing outside of Jamaica. It is more psychological than playing here at home," he explained.

Earlier this year, the JFF and the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) signed an agreement towards a historic qualification to the Olympic Games set for Japan in 2020.

"I must commend the federation and also the JOA for the partnership, as it is crucial for the programme. I am very excited, and also the staff and players are excited because the partnership bearing fruit this soon is good," Duckie added.

Looking at the squad selected for the friendly games, Duckie commended national senior team head coach, Theodore Whitmore for his inclusion of Under-23 players.

"Pretty much about 50 per cent of the squad is in training with the senior team and most of those players have played in senior international games for Jamaica, so that augurs well. Credit must also be given to Whitmore for his vision of drafting these players, not only for the 2020 Olympic Games, but also the 2022 World Cup," Duckie, who is also an assistant coach of the senior team, added.