Oral Tracey | No holiday for Whitmore and the Boyz
THE CORONAVIRUS pandemic has forced millions of people across the world to stay within the confines of their homes, cornered into what can be seen at best as a forced vacation, unfortunately for many, without pay. Despite several sporting events being cancelled and/or postponed, with the very fabric of global sports being sharply discombobulated, the timing of the COVID-19 outbreak has not yet affected one major sporting spectacle.
The start of the final round of FIFA World Cup-qualifying football is still scheduled for late August, and although things could change at short notice, August remains four months away and based on current global trends, four months represent a timeline that should see the pandemic run at least its initial course.
A worst-case scenario could see the qualifiers pushed back a month or two, or even three, which would still be soon enough to ensure teams across the world, including Jamaica, that are serious about getting to Qatar do not rest on their laurels. National head coach Theodore Whitmore, in this his forced time at home, cannot afford to lapse into a vacation-like wait-and-see mode. He and his technical team must use this time wisely, by getting extra busy on their telephones and laptops, and not just meticulously scouting their Concacaf rivals. Even more important, they need to ensure that tactically they are clear with plans A, B, and C, and crucially on the combination of players they need to execute these plans.
Relative to our Concacaf opponents, Jamaica has a very good pool of players to choose from. In that regard, the destiny of this crucial campaign will ultimately be decided by the astuteness of Whitmore’s team selection and tactical decisions.
Jamaica Football Federation President Michael Ricketts recently announced that the federation is not relenting in playing its part in the quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. Ricketts said the technical team was constantly engaged with the leadership of the federation and that fitness programmes have been designed by the coaching staff for the local-based members of the pool. With all due respect to that decision, the fact of the matter is that very few, if any, local players will be a part of that squad whenever the qualifiers begin.
That cancelled game against Catalonia, which was set for March 30 in Spain, was designed specifically for Whitmore and his team to have a look at a number of England-based players, with a view of having even more additions to the pool. With that game also falling victim to COVID-19, what, then, of that exercise and those potential additional players?
These and other like decisions should appropriately be giving Whitmore sleepless nights and days, but these are challenges he should embrace, and problems he must solve in the weeks and months ahead. The current extenuating circumstances have surely rendered his job that more difficult, but his was never an easy job.
It is fair to assume that the likes of Mexico, USA, who missed out on the last World Cup, and Costa Rica, et al, are not on pre-World Cup-qualifying vacation. Plans, programmes and systems are being put into place as we speak. Jamaica cannot afford to be left behind. Despite the challenges, Jamaica should represent with the conviction and confidence that the Qatar 2022 mission is accomplishable. It will all come down to Whitmore, his technical team, and the attitude of the players. All things considered, a good showing is definitely on the cards, and no excuses should be tolerated, not even the coronavirus.
Oral Tracey is a radio and television broadcaster with over 20 years of experience in providing sports commentary. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram at oraltraceymaverick.