Ricketts ready to correct U-20 woes
Still reeling from the misfortune of the Jamaica Under-20 team that exited the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship and, by extension, the FIFA Under-20 World Cup qualifiers recently, Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts has already taken steps to ensure that there is no recurrence of the incidents that led to the team's demise, he told The Gleaner.
Ricketts, who is still beaming with pride in the display of the young Reggae Boyz, who exited the tournament undefeated, admitted that it was the inadequate preparation of the team, coupled with the structure of the qualifiers, that cost this talented group of Under-20 players an opportunity to play on football's highest stage at this time in their careers.
"We had some amount of challenges because of the schoolboy football season. Most of the players were actually at the height of that, their schoolboy football competitions, and the coaches and schools were very reluctant to release them for a training camp, and understandably so," he explained.
"I agree that the preparation was inadequate, but we went as far as our finances allowed us. The Reggae Girlz, whose campaign to the World Cup was ahead of them, had virtually exhausted the finances of the JFF."
He continued: "The success of the team was based on the quality of the team. I do believe that if we were able to have given them more international exposure, we would have done better even with the structure of the competition, which was not in favour of selecting the best teams in the confederation."
To correct the problem, Ricketts said he raised the issues in a CONCACAF meeting in Tampa, Florida, last week.
"I have had some discussions at the CONCACAF meeting in Tampa, Florida, a few days ago about the whole structure of the competition, and we are hopeful that they will look at it. If two teams were going through, we would have a realistic chance of qualifying (for the Poland 2019 tournament)," Ricketts said.
He said he has asked for a shift of the Under-20 qualifiers schedule as it clashes with the schoolboy football season in the Caribbean.
"It is not just Jamaica who were affected by the timing of the qualifiers because it clashes with the schoolboy football competitions. Trinidad had the same problems," he said.
The young Reggae Boyz will have another opportunity to display their skills as a unit as they have secured a spot at the 2019 Pan American Games as they were the best team from the Caribbean in the CONCACAF qualifiers.
"We will have a female and a male team at the Pan Am Games. The Reggae Girlz will be there, having qualified for the World Cup, and the Under-20 Reggae Boyz, being the best Under-20 team out of the Caribbean," Ricketts said.