Kelly believes new squad has a good chance

Published: Saturday | January 24, 2009

Keith Kelly

IN THE aftermath of the Reggae Boyz qualification for the 1998 World Cup in France, a young Keith Kelly had his eyes set on representing Jamaica at the Youth World Cup in Argentina.

The midfielder, known for his dynamic dribbling and defence-splitting passes, was a star for Jamaica at the 1999 Under-17 Youth World Championships and, as a result, was later drafted into the Under-20 squad.

Kelly continued his fine form and earned his place on the Under-20 team. An opportunity he relished as he excelled at the Under-20 Youth World Championship in 2001, playing in Jamaica's first-round games against Egypt (0-0), Finland (1-0) and hosts Argentina (5-1).

"When I saw the senior team qualify for the 1998 World Cup, it was a big boost for me," Kelly said.

"It also motivated us as young players to make history as well," he said.

The 25-year-old, who plays for Harbour View in the Digicel Premier League, has also plied his trade with French giants Paris St Germain (PSG), Belgian side Mons and Trinidadian outfit CL Financial San Juan Jabloteh.

"I was one of the most experienced players on the team. I was playing with the senior team, PSG and the Under-23 squad," he said of his youth football days. "I was one of the players who had some exposure to European football. The players were happy to work with me and I was happy to work with them," Kelly said.

Kelly, a former Wolmer's schoolboy representative, first played for the senior national team against Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier in 2001. The last of his 10 senior caps came in February 2005 in a CONCACAF Gold Cup qualifier against Barbados.

"I think we qualified for the team through hard work and dedication. We were like a family. I guess that was one of the things that helped us to qualify because we worked together," Kelly said of the Under-20 side which went to Argentina.

He believes the current national Under-20 team has a good chance of qualifying for this year's World Cup in Egypt.

"The current squad looks as if it is enjoying itself and I think if it can stay focussed, work hard and stay humble, I think it can get the job done," Kelly said.

- Keisha Hill