Gordon Williams, Sunday Gleaner Writer
KANSAS CITY, Kansas, USA:Attacking player Jermaine Johnson has contradicted a statement from the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) that he did not play the Reggae Boyz' crucial World Cup qualifier (WCQ) against the United States on Friday because he was injured.
Speaking at the team hotel following Jamaica's 2-0 loss here, which ended the Boyz' hopes of reaching the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil, a "disappointed" Johnson said he was in good shape to face the US, a team he has had impressive games against.
"I was not injured," he declared, adding that he did not know why he was listed as hurt. "I was fit and ready to play, but I was not selected."
Johnson's statement contrasted with a press release issued on Friday by the JFF, which indicated that he and another Reggae Boy had been declared not ready to start the game.
"The duo of Jermaine Taylor and Jermaine Johnson are nursing injuries and were ruled out of contention to start," stated the JFF release, issued via e-mail to multiple media outlets.
Johnson also said he was not injured for Jamaica's match against Costa Rica in Kingston last month. He was dressed in team uniform for that game too, but, like Friday, did not play.
Taylor, who has started several WCQs, including the Costa Rica match, did not take the field in Friday's game, reportedly bothered by an injured shoulder.
Johnson's absence from Jamaica's team against the US here raised eyebrows, especially in the American camp. The speedy and skilful player from English Championship team Sheffield Wednesday tormented the Americans the last time the teams met in June in Kingston, a performance that didn't stop Jamaica's 2-1 loss, but earned him high praise from US coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
On Friday, Johnson said, based on his form and how he perceived preparations leading up to the US game, he was looking forward for a chance to play. He insisted he was more bothered by Jamaica's defeat and elimination from the World Cup than his personal wish to take the field. He also denied having fallen out with management or teammates, which led to his benching.
"I am upset we lost," said the man called 'Teddy'. "We have a good team, probably the best Jamaica team I have played on and we should have done better.
"I do not have any problems with anyone. We all get along."
He is, however, unhappy that, at age 33, this WCQ cycle would likely be his last. Jamaica's elimination means Johnson will almost certainly finish his career without playing in a World Cup, as the next staging of football's biggest show will be held in 2018, when he is 37.
However, Johnson said he was willing to accept the decision of Jamaica's head coach Winfried Schäefer not to send him on to the field.
"It's not my call if I play or not," he explained. "I have to respect what the coach says. No, I was not happy I didn't play, but I accept it."