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Work now to correct mistakes - Schäfer

Published:Thursday | October 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Audley Boyd, Assistant Sports Editor

As he battles criticism and calls for his sacking owing to a series of losses and the consequential nosedive in FIFA's world ranking, head coach of Jamaica's senior men's national football team, Winfried Schäfer, is arguing that a collective effort is needed to move the country's football forward.

Schäfer further argues that he is looking at new players all the time to build his team and that will have some negative spin-offs.

"When I make a new team, ... it's like a sculptor crafting something ... many chips go on the ground," he argued. "We have to change, we have to build a strong team, ... but if you want change, you have to work hard.

"We have to work now to correct the mistakes of the past."

Since taking over the national team from Theodore Whitmore at the back-end of 2014 World Cup Qualifying (WCQ) last year, the German, Schäfer, has led the Reggae Boyz into battle on 14 occasions, scoring two victories, drawing four games and losing the other eight.

Schäfer pointed at losses against tough opponents and in trying circumstances such as travelling long hours with unsatisfactory recovery time.

Pressure, however, began to mount in a tough four-match road trip prior to the World Cup Finals this past summer. In less than 14 days, Jamaica played Serbia (1-2) in New Jersey on May 26; Switzerland (0-1), ranked eighth at the time, in Lucerne on May 30; Egypt, the African champions (2-2) in London on June 4; and France (0-8) in Lille on June 8.

"It was clear during this period, our team was on holiday (out of season)," Schäfer observed. "We played these matches. We were a sparring partner for the World Cup teams, and in these matches, we had to change our players.

"I told the JFF (Jamaica Football Federation) we could play only three matches, not four matches. When we came back, ... Serbia, Switzerland, Egypt - those matches were very good. The problem was the French team."

Coach's defence

In the past three weeks, the Reggae Boyz played two more matches and with the defeats that have reignited criticism, the coach has put up his own defence.

"From these matches, only one match I think we were not good, the match in Canada," Schäfer said, noting they conceded too much in the 3-1 beating by the Canadians and missed too many clear scoring chances.

Against Japan, Nyron Nosworthy scored past his own keeper and Jamaica lost 0-1.

"Japan is the best team in Asia and we played them without (Rudolph) Austin, our best midfielder," he analysed. "Our team travelled for 24 hours. We have 12 hours difference from here (Jamaica) and all players go to the limit."

Responding to the criticisms within this past week, JFF president Captain Horace Burrell, reassured Schäfer of his position.

"The coach is safe," said Burrell. "Let me allay all fears, his job is safe."

Schäfer, who played in the German Bundesliga at Borussia Mönchengladbach and Karlsruhe, guided Cameroon to the African Cup of Nations title, then the World Cup Finals in 2002. Under his guidance, the African country also ended runners-up at the Confederations Cup in 2003.

His mandate is to lead Jamaica to the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia.

"That is why he wanted the four years so that he could look at a number of players and build a squad," Burrell pointed out. "The federation is very comfortable with Mr Schäfer."

As he goes about the business of preparing his team, the coach stresses the values of proper conditioning.

"I want to play pressing (game), but for pressing, you need fitness," he said.

"One goalkeeper sent a message to me. 'I lost eight kilos.' Why eight kilos, why wasn't he like that before? Yesterday, one man called me, one player lost 10 pounds. Why did he have 10 pounds before? That is the problem, tomorrow is not important, it's now," he stressed. "And that's why I'm not happy with our local players. The players come with the same weight to our matches and I talk to them before.

"Players need more self-control, self-fitness control. Not only from Jamaica, everybody. Everyone knows Jamaica will play in the Caribbean Cup in November. They should be working from January, February, March for the Caribbean Cup.

"Now, I'll take the local players from today for training for the Caribbean Cup. I'll make fitness and tactical training with the local players and I hope the players go back home from the training and live like a professional player," he reasoned.

"Only the professional way is the way to success," he remarked as he noted that need for a collective buy-in.

That buy-in could ultimately decide if he wins the battle against criticisms and a sacking.