Hubert Lawrence, Contributor
It was annoying when fans walked out on the Reggae Boyz during World Cup Qualifying games against the USA and Mexico earlier this year. Despite everything, it just didn't seem right to walk out when the Boyz were in the heat of battle.
Most people didn't even come to this week's match against Costa Rica.
When the visitors turned up in boatloads, the few Jamaicans who did come to the National Stadium Tuesday last were surrounded by a red-shirted army.
The bleachers were essentially empty. Perhaps the bleak weather and ticket prices were to blame. At $1,500 a pop for a ticket to the bleachers, there is a reasonable argument that a lower price might have resulted in bigger crowds. With most wallets a little light in the aftermath of back-to-school spending, could the right number have been $500?
A few years ago, the late Neville McCook revived the Gibson Relays with very low ticket prices for the bleachers and got a better turnout. The Jamaica Football Federation may have to follow suit when next the Boyz play at home. Hopefully, many more semi-fans might be tempted to trek to the stadium.
There was, however, another reason. All day on Tuesday, I met people who weren't going to the game because they didn't fancy the Boyz' chance of reaching Rio for the 2014 World Cup. For those persons, money wasn't the major problem. They just wanted to back a winner.
Backing an apparent loser, even if that loser was bedecked in black, green and gold, simply wasn't an option.
The outcome was a National Stadium grandstand with the look of a half-opened ackee. If you could view it from above, you'd see the glowing red of Costa Rica with little slivers of yellow.
The visitors made their presence felt early, with a rousing rendition of their national anthem. They were applauding it and themselves so lustily that you could hardly hear when the excellent Ian Andrews sang the first few lines of Eternal Father.
Normally, fans only join in the anthem to add the sonic boom when the singer recants, 'Jamaica, Jamaica, Jamaica'.
This time, in an effort to establish sovereignty inside our stadium, almost every Jamaican sang each word of what was left of the great hymn out loud.
However, the damage was done. Instead of confronting the Costa Ricans with a stadium full of yellow shirts, the red-clad visitors looked like they owned the place. Home court advantage had been surrendered.
Some fans left
As in the USA and Mexico games, some fans left when they reckoned all was lost. They may have been catching the bus home or driving home slicing when Jermaine 'Tuffy' Anderson equalised for Jamaica.
Fortunately, a small but faithful majority endured the misery and were rewarded.
In all these encounters, it's painfully clear that Jamaicans don't lift their teams as much other nations do. We don't really have any cheers. If the Boyz are struggling, there is no song from the fans to lift their spirits. There's no Jamaican football anthem like the Liverpool anthem, You'll Never Walk Alone.
Sometime ago, there was an effort to develop a Jamaican cheer, but it fell flat. For future campaigns, that effort should be revived. Perhaps roving singers could roam the stands, leading the crowd in iconic Jamaican songs like Bob Marley's Three Little Birds and One Love.
Instead, Jamaicans were outnumbered in their own 'Office' and as it was when the USA came here with perhaps 200 fans in June, they were out-shouted too.
If we are to be a force in football, we have to improve on the pitch. Jamaica's football fraternity needs to look again at its approach to international competition, to the integration of overseas-based players through the use of Internet-based prematch coaching and to better infrastructure at home.
We also need to improve off the field. Ticket pricing is a major issue, but supporting national teams is a choice more Jamaicans need to make even when things don't look rosy. If not, we will always be defeated by armies in red.
Hubert Lawrence has made notes at track side since 1980.