Wed | Aug 5, 2020

Don’t drop the ball - Reggae Boyz captain Blake calls on JFF for full support in World Cup qualifying campaign

Published:Saturday | August 1, 2020 | 12:00 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Jamaica’s Shamar Nicholson (right) and teammate Kemar Lawrence (left) battle for possession of the ball against Aruba’s Glenbert Croes during their Concacaf Nations League game at the National Stadium in Kingston on Saturday, October 12, 2019.
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National senior men’s football team goalkeeper and captain Andre Blake says that the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) must also play its part and give the team the best possible chance of qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

Blake says it will be very important that the JFF creates the best possible environment for the team to fulfil its potential of qualifying, but also that a collective effort and a united front will be critical to their efforts.

“We have a very good chance,” he said. “We have the players. It’s in our hands. We just ask for the support of the JFF to put us in the best possible position to get the job done. We have the group of guys but it’s going to take a lot of hard work, dedication, commitment, sacrifice and support but it’s 100 per cent possible.

“If we can get especially the fans and the JFF to put the team first and put the little things in place so we can get things moving, there is no limit to what this team can achieve.”

However, Blake said all stakeholders must work hand in hand to achieve qualification.

“We don’t want players in one corner and the JFF in another corner, that’s not good for the programme,” he said. “We are trying to get everybody on the same page, the players, fans, JFF, the sponsors because together there are great things we can achieve.

“We have weekly meetings with the JFF where we try to iron out certain things and give feedback as to what we think can be done better. It’s a work in progress but we have let them know that they have to put the team in the best possible situation. If you want to win big, you have to invest big. The players have to feel like everybody is on the same page. So it’s now the coaches’ responsibility to see that the JFF put us in the best possible position, so we can go out and do our part.”

In May, Bayer Leverkusen forward Leon Bailey said the only thing that could stop the team from making the World Cup is the JFF. He was subsequently reprimanded for those comments.

Regional governing body Concacaf announced a change to the structure of World Cup qualification format for this campaign on Monday, because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. The original format had the region’s top six ranked teams automatically advancing to the final round, where the top three teams would advance directly to the World Cup and the fourth plays off against fifth place in South America (CONMEBOL).

In the new format, Concacaf’s top five teams (Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras) await three teams who will qualify to advance from a round of six groups of five.

But Blake does not believes it has altered his team’s chances much.

“I don’t think that is a big change,” he said. “It doesn’t really affect us. Only now instead of six teams, it will be eight teams. We will play an additional four games but I don’t think it will affect us negatively in any way.

“We were still a part of that top five, and we were not on the outside looking in. There will be an extra two teams but once we continue to do our jobs we should be good to go.”

But Blake says it is good news for teams outside the top six, who only had a half a spot to play for.

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com

Ranking (in world) Team

1 (11) Mexico

2 (22) USA

3 (46) Costa Rica

4 (48) Jamaica

5 (62) Honduras

6 (69) El Salvador

7 (73) Canada

8 (80) Curacao

9 (81) Panama

10 (86) Haiti