Penna changed Jamaican football after independence – ‘Skill’ Cole
Jamaican football legend Allan ‘Skill’ Cole credits Brazilian coach Jorge Penna for revolutionising the national team after his arrival in 1962.
Penna’s appointment coincided with Jamaica’s independence, and the South American is considered to be the coach who freed the country’s ambitions in international football, bringing a strong sense of discipline and organisation to the Jamaican game.
“When foreign teams came here in the early days, they used to beat us and give us football lessons. We had talent, but we could not sustain for the duration of the game because we couldn’t handle the pace. They would destroy us, but we could play. We could match them for a half hour, but because we weren’t properly prepared, we would fade away late in the game,” Cole said.
“Our football really started getting modernised when Penna came here just after Independence. He came here in 1962, and that lifted our football a notch. People involved in football started to realise that to compete at the top level, players had to be properly prepared, and they had to eat right and all that.
“When Penna came, it was the first footballers started going into camp, started eating better and started training like how footballers were supposed to train. Penna brought discipline to the team, and he brought professionalism to the minds of the players and the administrators. So Penna brought an awakening to our football, and that is when our football really started to ascend,” Cole shared.
Cole made his debut under Penna and was part of the Brazilian’s Jamaican team that came one step away from qualifying for the 1966 World Cup in England.
In the preliminary round, Jamaica was grouped with Cuba and the Netherland Antilles. Jamaica beat Cuba 2-0 in their first game at the National Stadium and scored an identical win over the Netherland Antilles. In the away games, Jamaica was held to a goalless draw by the Netherland Antilles and suffered a 2–1 defeat to Cuba.
However, Jamaica advanced to the final group of three, with Costa Rica and Mexico, with the winner set to go on to represent Concacaf at the finals. Jamaica lost 3-2 at home to Mexico in the first game and 8-0 in the return leg. They also lost 7–0 to Costa Rica in their first encounter but held them to a 1–1 tie in the return game at home.
Jamaica, of course, went on to qualify for the 1998 World Cup in France.