It's a big one, says Burrell
Audley Boyd, Assistant Editor -
Captain Horace Burrell ... The JFF has been able to pull off what to many was an impossible task. - File
MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina:
The Reggae Boyz matchup against giants Argentina is being branded as "one of the biggest moments in the life of Jamaica's football".
So said Captain Horace Burrell, president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), in an interview yesterday at the hotel in Mar Del Plata where the Jamaica team is based.
"This is one of the biggest moments in the life of Jamaica's football ... to have been invited to Argentina and to have had Argentina pay for the airfares and all the other costs.
"It's a tremendously important moment for Jamaica," Burrell said.
The Reggae Boyz are ranked at 78 by FIFA, a whopping 70 places below the eighth-ranked South Americans, who have twice won the World Cup (1978, 1986).
"Argentina are one of the strongest teams in the world, one which could go all the way in the World Cup. A team with the pedigree of Argentina inviting little Jamaica to play a friendly is certainly an honour and one which will be cherished by all," added Burrell of the country coached by one of the game's greats, Diego Maradona. The team also has Lionel Messi, the current World Player of the Year.
Messi, who represents world and European club champions Barcelona, of Spain, won't play in tomorrow's match, as well as a number of his top teammates.
Jamaica will also be missing a number of their top internationals, and Burrell said this game represents a grand occasion for those on hand.
"Our players, on Wednesday, will be afforded one of the greatest opportunities of their football career, to play against Argentina in Argentina. The JFF has been able to pull off what to many was an impossible task. But having arranged the game, now the players must go and do the rest," noted Burrell.
"They have a responsibility to get out there and to do their best, to perform well on the pitch and understand that the world will be watching this game," he added. "A good performance in this game is going to open several other doors for the Jamaican football programme in time to come."
Burrell continued: "We have been very fortunate and all of this happened because of my personal relationship with the Argentina Football Association (AFA) president Julio Grondona. I have always been asking him to allow his team to play against Jamaica and it is something I've been working on for years and it has come true. Not only has this game happened, in the past when we have visited Brazil and Argentina, we had to pay our way, pay hotel accommodation, pay for training (grounds) and all of that."
The JFF has held training camps in the big South American footballing countries - Brazil and Argentina - prior to this, with Jamaica touring Argentina back in 1997, when they were preparing for the 1998 World Cup Finals in France. However, it has always come at a cost.
"Today, I have lived to see the Reggae Boyz come of age where we have come to Argentina where all airfares, hotel accommodation and to top it all off, a match fee, albeit a small match fee of US$20,000, is what the AFA has agreed," Burrell pointed out. "This is unheard of and, therefore, I want all of Jamaica to realise what is about to happen on Wednesday."