Boyz seeking right squad balance
Jamaica senior men’s football team manager Roy Simpson says that they are determined to assemble as balanced a squad as possible for their international friendly matches against hosts Saudi Arabia next month.
The Reggae Boyz are scheduled to end their eight-month hiatus from international football against the “Green Falcons” as they start their preparations for FIFA World Cup final-round qualifiers next year. Both matches on November 14 and 17 will take place at the Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh. Jamaica haven’t played an international friendly since Bermuda on March 11 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Simpson says that the composition of the 23-man squad will be known in a few days. When asked if the squad would comprise mostly European- and American-based players who are fully immersed in their campaigns, he said that they hoped to give equal opportunities to every player available for selection.
A MIX OF PLAYERS
“It has to be a mix because what we are trying to do is give as many of our players who are available international activity again because we have been inactive since March,” Simpson told The Gleaner. “So you will be seeing a mix of players from wherever our players are [based].”
The Reggae Boyz’s last match featured a squad of mostly local-based players. Jamaican football has been on hold since then, with even the 2019-20 Red Stripe Premier League season suspended and eventually cancelled because of the pandemic. Meanwhile, players in Europe and the United States have restarted their campaigns, some participating in deep postseason campaigns for their teams.
Former national assistant Bradley Stewart says that head coach Theodore Whitmore could bring in mostly players from those regions as they have managed to play consistently at a high level in the midst of the current health situation.
“If it is that we can find players to fit the bill that are currently active, I would think that is where the coach wants to concentrate his efforts because he would be inviting players that are currently playing at the higher levels,” Stewart said. “So that would weigh heavily in favour of taking mostly overseas players.”
With concerns heightened over the safety of players released during the international break, Simpson said that the Jamaica Football Federation had been in dialogue with the respective clubs to ensure that the players’ safety was guaranteed.
“What we are doing currently is partnering with the clubs, asking them to share with us the most recent COVID-19 test results for each player the day before departure to join the delegation to go to Saudi Arabia. We are operating from a COVID-19 platform,” Simpson said. “We have informed the clubs and assured them that the safety of their players and our staff is paramount.”
Several international players have contracted COVID-19 while on international duty recently, the most high profile being Juventus’ Cristiano Ronaldo, who represents Portugal.