Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Boyz’s World Cup prep still uncertain

Published:Friday | September 11, 2020 | 12:16 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
RICKETTS
RICKETTS
Jamaica’s Brian Brown (right) is taken down by Aruba’s Noah Harris during a Concacaf Nations League game at the National Stadium on Saturday, October 12, 2019.
Jamaica’s Brian Brown (right) is taken down by Aruba’s Noah Harris during a Concacaf Nations League game at the National Stadium on Saturday, October 12, 2019.
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While still awaiting guidance and approval from the local health authorities regarding the playing of matches in FIFA’s October international window, Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts says that the uncertainty has made preparations for the upcoming final round of World Cup qualifiers challenging.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused the postponement of international matches and tournaments this summer and also resulted in the postponement of the Concacaf final-round qualifiers till next June and the subsequent restructuring of the format.

Initially targeting to have practice matches for the senior men’s national team next month in preparation for their final-round campaign, Ricketts says that the recent surge of positive cases in the island has made organising such fixtures difficult.

“We are caught between a rock and a hard place because we have to prepare ourselves from now, [but] at the same time, we have to protect the health and well-being of our players,” Ricketts told The Gleaner. “But it has to be best practices, and we are depending exclusively on the technical people and, of course, what the Ministry of Health will advise and what our local health officials will advise.”

The rapid surge, which started in August, has pushed the total number of confirmed cases, as at yesterday, to 3,511, of which over 2,342 are active cases.

NO DEFINITIVE ARRANGEMENTS

Ricketts says that preliminary discussions have taken place between countries from the region regarding possible opponents for the Reggae Boyz. No definitive arrangements have been finalised, but Ricketts said that playing games overseas is still an option, provided that the Ministry of Health and Wellness gives approval.

“A number of teams around Concacaf are tentatively looking for games, and we have been having discussions, but all this is in the very embryotic stages,” he said, “so we still can’t make an announcement.”

The Concacaf World Cup qualifying schedule has had a further delay as the first and second rounds have been pushed back to March 2021. On Tuesday, Concacaf cited difficulties in having 30 teams competing as there was no improvement in the health situation in some countries.

“Many parts of the region continue to have very challenging public health situations, and that has been a key factor in this decision. Additionally, several countries across the confederation have travel restrictions and quarantine requirements, which would make international football involving 30 national teams extremely difficult,” Concacaf’s statement said.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com