Palmer says local organisation is 'messy' - Vows to stay in retirement if there aren't changes
Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer
GEORGIA, United States:
Lovel Palmer has vowed to stay in international retirement if Jamaica's current "messy" football administration remains, although the 29-year-old believes he has "much to offer" the country.
Palmer, who represented Major League Soccer (MLS) club Chicago Fire last week Wednesday night against Atlanta Silverbacks in the quarter-final of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, said he still yearns to play for Jamaica.
"I said I was over with the national team, but I must say Jamaica is my home, you know, and it's very close to my heart, and every time they play a game I watch and I know I have so much to offer to the programme, you know, and at times I wish I was there," said Palmer, who last November abruptly announced he was quitting the national team.
However, the defender/midfielder is adamant he won't return immediately, a result of his perceived mistreatment during the last World Cup qualifying campaign.
Palmer played every minute of the CONCACAF semi-final, including a victory over the United States, but was not selected for the final round where Jamaica failed to qualify for Brazil.
That decision, Palmer believes was unfair and prompted not by then head coach Theodore Whitmore, but others in the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). His sentiments haven't changed.
"If circumstances were different, you know. If we have the right people running the federation, you know, I have no problem going back and playing for the national team," said Palmer, Chicago's regular right back, "because it's my country and it's my home and I always want to represent my country.
"But I just think that the organisation is messy right now. It needs to be cleaned up and hence I don't think I really want to go back there right now with it being the way it is."
Palmer, who played close to 30 internationals for Jamaica, believes he could help the national team, especially the youngsters.
"They need experienced guys around them to teach them," he explained. "So it really plays on my mind. Not affecting my club career, but ... you would want to be out there. But such is life."
Palmer has his attention fixed on Chicago, which he joined this season after playing with Houston Dynamo, Portland Timbers and Real Salt Lake since joining MLS in 2010.
"My club career I'm focusing on right now," he said.
Palmer has performed, despite injuries which have limited him to 13 MLS games, 12 as a starter.
"He's had a few injury problems, which is a bit of a shame," said Chicago head coach Frank Yallop last week Wednesday. "But generally, he has stayed in well ... Lovel slots in nicely at right back ... He is a good player."
Yallop believes Palmer's non-availability for the national team could be a plus for Chicago.
"He's not got to worry about any international call-ups," the coach said.
Palmer said he never had problems with Jamaica's players or coaches. His issues are with JFF brass.
"It's coming from the top," he said. "If the top is not clean, it's gonna filter right down.
"Theodore Whitmore was a great coach, in my eyes. I think he did wonders for the national team. He did things that no foreign coach or any coach has ever done. But at the same time, you know, it's not up to them. It's coming from up top, and until we can clean from the top it's gonna be the same thing."
Palmer said he's comfortable at the Fire.
"I'm very good with Chicago," he said.
Yet it still burns that Jamaica failed to qualify for World Cup 2014, especially after watching CONCACAF teams like Costa Rica, United States and Mexico do well in Brazil.
"It hurts, you know," said Palmer, "because I'm not taking anything away from what the US (has) done, but look at it: our team that we had in the semi-final (CONCACAF round) we beat the US, you know. We tied with Mexico in Mexico (in the hexagonal).
"I know Jamaica has the crop of players that last qualifying (campaign), you know - who I think could have done the same what every other team, the CONCACAF teams, (have) done (at the World Cup) and even better, you know."
He hears the same comments wherever he goes.
"People talk about the national team every single day," Palmer said. "Talk about the players that play for Jamaica."