Jamaica

Jamaica

  • Capital: Kingston
  • Official Languages: English
  • National Language: Jamaican Patois
  • Nicknames: Reggae Boyz – men’s team; Reggae Girlz – women’s team
  • Association: Jamaica Football Federation (JFF)
  • FIFA Code: JAM

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Group Stage (1998)
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Group Stage (2019)
  • Best Gold Cup Result (Men): Finalists (2015, 2017)
  • Best Gold Cup Result (Women): Third Place (2018)
  • Best Copa América Result (Men): Group Stage (2015, 2016)
  • Best Caribbean Cup (Men): WINNERS (6 times)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 27th (August 1998)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 50th (March 2020)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 116th (October 2008)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 128th (November 2010)
  • Most Capped Player: Ian Goodison – 128 caps
  • Top Scorer: Khadija Shaw – 42 goals [as of August 2021]

The island nation of Jamaica is the third-largest island in the Caribbean and is situated in the western half of the region. Jamaica’s nearest neighbours are Cuba to the north, Haiti (occupying the western half of the second-largest Caribbean island of Hispaniola) to the east, and the British Overseas Territory of the Cayman Islands to the north-west. As with many islands in the region, it used to be part of the British Empire (and is thus an Anglophonic country) and was one of England’s oldest colonies until the island achieved its long overdue independence in 1962. Although the island still maintains Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state, thus making it a member of the Commonwealth.

Because of its imperial history, football was introduced to the island in the late 19th century by the British colonists, with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) being established in 1910. It wouldn’t be until fifteen years later when the island had its first international game, when a Jamaican representative team played against Haiti in a three-game series in 1925, winning their debut 2-1 at Port-au-Prince. From 1925 until their independence in 1962, the Jamaican representative team would play regular games between Haiti, Cuba, and fellow British Empire member and historical rival, Trinidad & Tobago. Jamaica would become full members of FIFA in the same year of independence, and joined CONCACAF the following year – just in time to take part in the inaugural CONCACAF Championship (the forerunner to the Gold Cup) in 1963.

Jamaica is currently considered one of the strongest nations in both the Caribbean region and the CONCACAF confederation. Since their rise in international football during the early 1990s, they have become one of the most successful Caribbean nations having won the (now defunct) Caribbean Cup on six occasions, most recently in 2014, and finished as finalists on three other occasions, most notably appearing in the last Caribbean Cup final in 2017. In addition, Jamaica also reached two consecutive Gold Cup finals in both the 2015 and 2017 editions of the tournament, losing to Mexico in the former and the United States in the latter final. In the most recent Gold Cup tournament in 2021, they reached the quarter-finals for the fourth consecutive tournament, but were eliminated by the United States once again at the last eight stage.

However the Reggae Boyz are most remembered for qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, when they became only the third Caribbean nation to appear in football’s greatest tournament. They were the first and (at the time of writing) still only Caribbean nation to achieve a victory at the World Cup when they defeated Japan by two goals to one in Lyon during the group phase. However, they are not the only Jamaican team to have appeared at a World Cup though with their women’s counterparts, the Reggae Girlz, qualifying for the most recent Women’s World Cup in 2019. Sadly on both occasions, the Jamaican sides were unable to progress beyond the group stage, but impressed with both appearances.

Nonetheless, Jamaica is certainly regarded as one of the most competitive football nations within the CONCACAF confederation. The women’s team are expected to progress to the 2023 World Cup via the 2022 CONCACAF Women’s Championship, with many of their first choice players playing at top clubs in either the United States or Europe (in particular England, such as star striker Khadija “Bunny” Shaw playing at Manchester City). Whereas the men’s team are still within a chance of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup as they have reached the third and final round of qualifying phases within CONCACAF. Should the Reggae Boyz finish their campaign within the top three spots of the eight-team group, then they will automatically qualify for the global tournament. However, should they finish in fourth spot, they will earn themselves an inter-confederation playoff for another opportunity to qualify for Qatar 2022.

To talk about one of the most successful Caribbean sides in football, two-time Gold Cup finalists, and the 1998 World Cup qualifiers, we interviewed the excellent Jamaica Football Hub. They are a Twitter account which reports and highlights everything that is happening in the fascinating world of Jamaican football, whether it be domestically, or its players playing abroad, as well as the fortunes of all of its national teams. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:

Q. Who would you say is Jamaica’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Ricardo Gardner

Best ever player: Ricardo “Bibi” Gardner [left winger who made 111 appearances for Jamaica and scored 9 goals between 1997 and 2012]. He was a part of our golden generation and team that went to the 1998 World Cup at only 19 years old. Had a stellar career with Bolton Wanderers for many years [making 342 appearances for The Trotters between 1998 and 2012], and captained us as well.

Best manager of all-time: The Brazilian coach René Simões, as he guided us to that historic feat of qualifying for the World Cup in 1998, and has the most wins (56) as a manager for us. However, his excellent winning record is on the verge of being broken by our current manager [Theodore Whitmore], and I do believe Whitmore will eclipse him soon.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the Jamaican national team both in the past and present?

Walter Boyd

The player that immediately comes to mind when you mention ‘cult hero’ is Walter “Blacka Pearl” Boyd [striker who scored 19 times for Jamaica in 66 appearances between 1991 and 2001]. Had a stint at Swansea City back in the day [playing 43 games and scoring 10 goals for The Swans between 1999 and 2001] but is always remembered and loved for his skills and dribbling ability for the Reggae Boyz.

Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the national side currently?

Leon Bailey

Best player on the current team is easily Leon Bailey [24-year-old winger just signed for Aston Villa from Bayer Leverkusen] (judging off talent), but if I extend the scope and use performances as the measuring stick, it’s either Andre Blake [30-year-old goalkeeper currently with Philadelphia Union] or Damion Lowe [28-year-old defender who plays for Egyptian side Al-Ittihad].

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?

The current state of the national team is good. The talent pool has improved in comparison to previous years. However, the best word to describe the performances is ‘inconsistent’. We have so much room for improvement.

Q. Are there any Jamaican players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

Tyreek Magee

Yes, I do believe we have a crop of youngsters that we should be focusing on for the future. A decent crop of under 23 players such as Javain Brown [22-year-old right-back at Vancouver Whitecaps], Jamoi Topey [21-year-old defender at Philadelphia Union II], Peter-Lee Vassell [23-year-old midfielder at Indy Eleven], Tyreek Magee [21-year-old midfielder currently at Belgian side Eupen], and Jeadine White [21-year-old goalkeeper at Cavalier SC] are the best of that lot. Most exciting upcoming talent(s) for me are Peter-Lee Vassell and Tyreek Magee.

Q. Looking at Jamaica’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result, or performance for the national team in your opinion?

  • Best game: It was a 2-1 away win versus Chile in 2016.
  • Best result: 0-0 at the Azteca Stadium versus Mexico in 1997 [during the Hexagonal] to secure our qualification for the 1998 World Cup.
  • Best performance: For me, it would be a 1-0 away win versus USA in 2019, we bossed and controlled that game.

Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?

We’ve had many lows, so there’s a lot to choose from, but that 2-1 loss against Curaçao in the 2017 Caribbean Cup final still cuts the deepest.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Jamaican national team?

The best thing about being a fan is the togetherness of the country when the boyz suit up to play on home soil. There is nothing better than a packed stadium of Jamaican supporters cheering on the Reggae Boyz.

The worst thing is honestly the many disappointments. We are nowhere near from being the best national team in the world, but I do believe my expectations of the team and program is fair, and many times they’ve failed to lived up to them.

Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?

Not that I’m aware of. We have many local slangs and cheers which are used though.

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?

The 1998 World Cup home shirt.

Yes I do have a favorite/iconic jersey. Jerseys don’t get much more iconic than the 1998 shirt haha.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Jamaican national team?

The short-term hope is to at least finish within a play-off spot for the 2022 World Cup [finishing fourth in the eight team final qualifying round will confirm an inter-confederational playoff]. Over the next 5 years, I expect us to win at least one Gold Cup and qualify for the 2026 World Cup [co-hosted by the USA, Mexico, and Canada].

A massive thank you very much to the superb Jamaica Football Hub for answering our questions on the Reggae Boyz. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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