Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor - Sport
FOR NOW, it's the closest Jamaicans will get to the FIFA World Cup Trophy. Not that it matters really; they're looking to make the most of this historic stop for the golden prize of global football, which made its first ever landing in Jamaica yesterday.
Sheltered in a fibreglass case covered with black cloth as it stood atop a thin red platform about three feet long, the mass of gold was unveiled by Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Captain Horace Burrell, president, Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), at the General Aviation Terminal, Norman Manley International Airport.
The FIFA World Cup, courtesy of Coca Cola, is on a near nine-month tour that will take it to 89 countries. It started recently in Brazil and came here from Panama.
This is its first stop in the Caribbean. It will be taken to 18 more regional territories.
The unveiling of the main prize for football's showpiece event - the quadrennial World Cup - took place moments after the trophy had been brought upon these shores by an aeroplane emblazoned in red and white-painted words Coca Cola, FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour.
It was a much-anticipated moment. Government staff, media, airport workers and those associated with the sponsor, Coca Cola, along with officials from FIFA and JFF waited quite a while for the plane's near 11 a.m. arrival.
Prime Minister Simpson Miller and members of her staff, Burrell, William Mahfood, managing director, Wisynco, local distributors of Coca Cola, boarded the aircraft, which had the outstanding trophy standing on a table to the back.
"I'm personally very proud that Jamaica is the first stop in the Caribbean, in our region and I'm sure that those who have the opportunity to view her tomorrow will also be very pleased,"offered the Prime Minister.
"She is very beautiful and shining, just like the gold in our flag."
Continuing, she said: "It is important and will serve as an inspiration to our footballers, to young footballers and to prospective footballers."
She added: "The World Cup has deep meaning for all Jamaicans ... To date, there has been no football memory as sweet as the shared joy of watching our Reggae Boyz break through the barriers of history and make their way triumphantly to France in 1998.
A number of players and officials associated with that landmark have been included in activities planned around the Tour, including the main event - the fan experience at the National Indoor Sports Centre today.
"Tomorrow we will have activity for kids, for adults, people will get the chance to take pictures with the trophy," said Mahfood. "Thanks to Coca Cola and thanks to FIFA for making it possible."
Burrell, who also presided over the JFF when Jamaica qualified for France, pointed to this new first.
"Today is a historic day. It is historic because the FIFA World Cup is coming to the Caribbean for the first time and Jamaica is the first stop. Coca Cola got it right.
"Jamaica, the first English-speaking Caribbean country to qualify for the FIFA World Cup, is deserving of this most prestigious honour," he said.