Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
National senior men's football team head coach, Theodore Whitmore, says it is now time to embrace "a common goal" in reference to the Reggae Boyz, who are preparing for their opening game in the hexagonal phase of qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup to be staged in Brazil.
Jamaica will play away to CONCACAF giant Mexico in their opening match on Wednesday, February 6 and Whitmore, who knows much about playing in Mexican conditions, used the occasion of the launch of the Sandals/ATL St James FA Senior League to urge support for the players.
He said competing against the likes of the US, Mexico, Honduras, Costa Rica and Panama will take much, given that in 1998 when the country qualified for France, those countries took us lightly, but noted that this time around they will prepare seriously.
"Funding has been a huge difference between competing countries and will continue to be so unless greater support is secured for the campaign," said Whitmore.
"Of course, I would be na´ve to think Jamaica can compete with funding against the likes of the US, Mexico and Costa Rica, for instance, but at a minimum we need to ensure that all the basics are covered for our participation and preparation," said Whitmore, who was guest speaker at the event, which was also used as a presentation ceremony for the successful Cornwall College U-16 football team.
Whitmore reiterated his strong belief that Jamaica stand a great chance to make its presence felt in Mexico, noting that resilience and commitment is the bedrock of the Reggae Boyz.
"We can qualify for Brazil 2014. It is within us to do so. We are 10 official games and nine months away, history beckons. Let us all embrace this opportunity by joining hands and rally around a common cause. Let us not miss this opportunity," urged Whitmore.
Whitmore, who scored twice against Japan in Jamaica's 2-1 victory in France 1998, under the coaching of Brazilian Rene Simoes, knows full well that it will be a monumental task to qualify, but made reference of that campaign in which every sector showed levels of support to the programme. As such, he called for a similar effort this time around.
Meanwhile, national Under-16 and Sandals Under-17 champions, Cornwall College, were presented with their prize for a successful season.
Also, the Sandals/ATL St James FA Senior League kicks off this tomorrow with a double-header at Jarrett Park, with the feature match being North Gully Ambassadors tackling Fogo at 6 p.m. The opening game pits Reggae Youths against Little Miami at 4:00. ATL is committing over $2 million to St James football.
The competition includes 12 teams in two zones, with the top two advancing to the semi-finals, which will be played on a home-and-away basis.