Wed | Sep 22, 2021

‘Always a contingency’

JFF expects release of all players ahead of USA friendly, but prepared for all eventualities

Published:Monday | March 15, 2021 | 12:14 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
WINT
WINT
MANSINGH
MANSINGH
United States midfielder Christian Pulisic (right) heads the ball away while challenged by Jamaica midfielder Devon Williams during a Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal match in Nashville, Tennessee on Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
United States midfielder Christian Pulisic (right) heads the ball away while challenged by Jamaica midfielder Devon Williams during a Concacaf Gold Cup semifinal match in Nashville, Tennessee on Wednesday, July 3, 2019.
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Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) General Secretary Dalton Wint says that he does not foresee any problems with clubs releasing national players for their international friendly against the United States of America (US) next week despite concerns...

Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) General Secretary Dalton Wint says that he does not foresee any problems with clubs releasing national players for their international friendly against the United States of America (US) next week despite concerns about COVID-19 quarantining protocols on return to club duty.

Jamaica will play their first game of 2021 against the US in Austria on March 25 without fans in attendance as per UEFA’s Return to Play protocols. In February, FIFA relaxed its rules requiring players being released from their clubs during the international window until the end of April. This means that clubs can refuse to allow players to travel if they would have to quarantine on their return to club duty for five or more days because of COVID-19 regulations.

English Premier League coaches have suggested that they would not allow players to leave their clubs for the international break later this month because of the quarantine periods.

ALTERNATIVE ARRANGEMENTS

Wint says the JFF is prepared to make alternative arrangements should certain clubs refuse to allow their players to travel, but he doesn’t expect such a scenario.

“There are always contingencies,” Wint said. “We have some persons here in Jamaica on standby in the case that the club will not release players, but we have [gotten] a lot of indication that the clubs are okay with the players playing this game. So we are hoping not to have any sort of hiccups in terms of that.”

National players at clubs in Europe such as Bayer Leverkusen’s Leon Bailey, Charleroi’s Shamar Nicholson, Fulham’s Bobby Decordova-Reid, and Michael Hector could be some of the players, if invited, that would be facing such challenges.

The local-based camp for the friendly was given immediate approval by Sports Minister Olivia Grange, but she said players could report to camp today or tomorrow, with testing to be done before the players enter the facility.

Wint says that testing will be done during the camp, and he is expecting all players to arrive in Austria by March 22. Additionally, he is keen to avoid the challenges from the last international friendly in Saudi Arabia in November, which saw a number of positive tests within the camp and one incident of a positive test en route. That person had to be isolated in London before returning home. Additionally, a couple of players did not immediately return with the majority of the delegation as they were not cleared in time for departure.

“What we will ensure is to ensure all negative tested persons travelling,” he said. “They must receive that result before we start travelling [to Austria].

“We have learned some lessons in which we are keen to [apply] to ensure that we don’t repeat some of the things that happened in Saudi Arabia.

Sports Medicine Physician Dr Akshai Mansingh says the groundwork has to be done regarding testing, prompt retrieval of results, and tight protocols to lessen the risk of the JFF repeating the experiences of November.

“They have to [be] extremely careful that they do not do anything that exposes themselves,” he said. “The risk of catching anything during travel is small. But what they have to do is do all the homework.”

If the route to Austria includes the United States, the team will need to submit a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours before travel. Jamaica’s travel ban to the United Kingdom is still in place until March 22.

Wint said that the full squad for the game is expected to be announced soon as the team prepares for the Concacaf Gold Cup this summer, and the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifiers scheduled for September.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com