Kudos to Tappa for FIFA rankings
Jamaica’s elevation to the No. 45 position on the October FIFA/Coca Cola World Rankings is being hailed and heralded across the local football fraternity for different reasons. One abstract school of thought is that the rise of the Reggae Boyz in the rankings is somehow deserved reward and vindication for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts and his often-beleaguered administration for their input in the team’s performances.
Another misguided theory floating in the wind is that this latest series of movements is exclusively the doing of the ongoing Concacaf Nations League, and especially the fact that Jamaica finds itself in the lower tier, where they have dominated the significantly weaker opposition. This is not totally true because the rise of the Boyz has been consistent over the past three years, having gotten to 52nd in 2017, which was well before the advent of the Nations League.
The more reasoned and rational allocation of praise must go to head coach Theodore Whitmore, who, against all the odds, has expertly navigated the choppy seas and continues to do an excellent job of getting the required results that have so positively impacted the scientifically tabulated ratings of all the national football teams in world football.
Of course, being ranked at 45 does not mean that Jamaica is the 45th best football nation in the world. The science of the rankings is not that exact. The rankings represent a relativity snapshot of each team against the other, indexed by how active each team was and the results of those games played. Regardless of the specific dynamics of the rankings, they have become increasingly important to the football federations, teams, coaches, and players in the modern game.
Jamaica must be relishing its current ranking status for two key reasons. First of all, with the new structure of Concacaf World Cup qualifying which kicks off in September 2020, the top six teams in the region, as determined by these rankings, will be guaranteed automatic final-round berths from which the top three qualify for the FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar, while the other 35 eligible nations in the North and Central America and the Caribbean region will be left with the convoluted route of scrapping and scraping to be the one team to then play off with the fourth-placed team from that top six in the hexagonal round, and then further play off with the fifth-place team from South America for the right to be a part of the showpiece in Qatar.
The next big consideration in countries like Jamaica maintaining our top 50 status, is that a consistent top 50 ranking opens up the doors of eligibility to Jamaican internationals to move directly into the top five professional leagues of Europe. Conversely, dropping out of that top 50 means that unless a particular player carries an elite market value of €20 million and above, then that player cannot transfer directly into England or any of the other top five European leagues.
Gone are the days when scoffing at the necessity and or voracity of the FIFA rankings was fashionable. With the changing dynamics of the international football calendar, and especially for smaller football nations like Jamaica, the FIFA rankings have become a pivotal guide to the way the entire football programmes are structured.
Ricketts and the JFF are well within their right to try and grab on to the coat-tail of the upward movement of the team, but certainly, coach Whitmore deserves the lion’s share of the praise for quietly and competently going about his business, which has in effect, kept Jamaica relevant in the wider world of football as reflected in those now poignant and precious FIFA rankings.