Sat | Sep 25, 2021

Warren Barrett: Captain and team player

Published:Saturday | June 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMRachid Parchment

It is now 20 years since Jamaica's historic appearance at the FIFA World Cup in France. Some of the members of that team recall some of the memories of that campaign for The Sunday Gleaner's Rachid Parchment.

Former goalkeeper and captain Warren 'Boopie' Barrett played 108 times for the Reggae Boyz in a career that spanned 10 years between 1990 and 2000.

Barrett, 47, led the team in the first two Group H World Cup games against Croatia and Argentina, where they lost 3-1 and 5-0, respectively. A groin injury kept him out of the following game, which the team won 2-1 against Japan. However, Barrett said that he was happy about every moment of the trip.

Rachid Parchment: During the qualifying campaign, did you have any doubts about the team's chances of advancing?

Warren Barrett: There was no point during the Hex (final qualifying round of six) that I felt that we were out of it. We beat El Salvador (1-0) when Andy 'Bomber' Williams scored that cracker from 35 yards, and that gave us the momentum we needed going into the summer before we played Canada and Costa Rica, so we were pretty confident.

RP: What was your favourite moment from the qualifiers?

WB: Probably the 2-2 draw in El Salvador. After the game, we were a bit disappointed, giving up a 2-1 lead to a late equaliser, but it was real quiet in the changing room, and it was assistant coach (Carl) Brown who said "Gentlemen, come on! We haven't lost. We have gotten a point, and this, basically, has put us in the driver's seat to qualify." When we looked at it, reality kicked in that we could get the point against Mexico at home. It was a significant moment in El Salvador.

RP: Fans look back at Mexico and the United States as Jamaica's arch-rivals, some considering their style of play as "dirty". There was one particular game, the team drew 1-1 in the United States, where the Americans scored from an incorrectly judged penalty where Goodison was said to have handled the ball outside the box. When things like these went against you, how did you feel about your opponents? Did you feel angry, aggrieved, and fired up?

WB: All of the above! (laughs) That wasn't a deliberate handball. It was difficult for him to react or to move his arm. It was in a natural position by his side. I remember when we were coming out for the match, we could hear the Dutch pot covers and I saw my batchmate from Cornwall College banging, and Eric Wynalda (then USA captain) was like, 'Damn, it seems like we're in Kingston again'." When you're looked down, upon, you're not under any pressure since everyone expects you to lose or fail. So that gave us extra motivation to prove people wrong.

RP: What was it like, as captain, hearing the national anthem being played in France?

WB: Goose pimples! It happens every game, actually, especially when you're at home and Ian Andrews was singing the anthem. We had to force back the tears a lot of times, but you're supercharged. You could run through the stadium walls. That's the way we felt at The Office (National Stadium in Kingston), but at the World Cup, reality really sank in, in that this was the greatest showpiece on Earth. It was great and an honour to know that a little boy from humble beginnings is now leading his nation on this stage. What more could I have asked for?

RP: Who was your roommate in France, and was it hard to sleep the nights before facing Croatia and Argentina?

WB: Most times travelling, Theodore (Whitmore) or my brother, Garth Peterkin, were my roommates. Garth wasn't on the trip, but Theodore was my roommate. There was no problem falling asleep for the game. Yes, it was the World Cup, but it was just another game. We're still playing 11 players, not 22. So I didn't lose any sleep over that.

RP: How did it feel knowing you missed the win against Japan through injury, but Aaron Lawrence got his chance in goal?

WB: I've always been a team player. There was one time in the Caribbean Cup in '97 where coach rested me to see how I would react. I was like a coach. I was motivating and I was talking. Even Donald 'Foulie' Stewart, who was sitting beside me, said: "Jah know, skipper, mi neva know seh a suh yuh talk nuff, man." Mi seh "Foulie, a my team, yuh nuh."

The following morning coach (Rene) Simoes said: "Barrett, I like that you motivate and encourage." I was a team player. It didn't matter who coach selected. At the end of the day, they were representing my team, my country, and I just wanted us to win.

RP: Recently, Whitmore said he'd love if a reunion game with the '98 squad was organised. Would you like that as well?

WB: It was something we always discussed. A game against one of those teams from CONCACAF qualifying or even the 98 Brazil squad would be nice.

Barrett is now employed to the national programme as a goalkeeping coach.

NEXT WEEK: Theodore Whitmore.