JAMAICA COACH Theodore Whitmore’s plans for his team’s friendlies this month have been scuppered by the threat of coronavirus.
The unofficial international between Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz and the Spanish region of Catalonia has been postponed from March 30, but the head coach leads his local contingent into battle against Bermuda on Wednesday (March 11).
The two matches, in preparation for the next stage of the CONCACAF Nations League, had been scheduled in order for Whitmore to run his eye over two totally different squads.
The North American and Jamaican-based players were originally meant to tackle Bermuda, with those plying their trade in Europe to face Catalonia.
The Catherine Hall Sports Complex in Montego Bay hosts Bermuda (7pm ko local time), with the teams set to meet for the first time in 20 years. Jamaica edged a five-thriller 3-2 in Kingston’s National Stadium the last time these sides met.
Both nations are firmly on the ascendency, although the Boyz lie a hefty 120 places higher than this week’s opponents in the FIFA world rankings at no.48.
Yet Bermuda are arguably no longer the pushover team they were over the past decade, and surprisingly reached the Gold Cup for the first time last summer where they stunned Nicaragua with a disciplined 2-0 triumph inside the Red Bull Arena in Jersey. And in their last outing Bermuda only slipped up to a last-gasp goal to tumble 2-1 against mighty Mexico in November.
Jamaica’s intriguing visit to play Catalonia, who are not recognised by FIFA as it is a region rather than a country, has been postponed because of ongoing fears relating to the spread of the Coronavirus.
Although there have been only a handful of reported cases of the virus in Catalonia, details emerged from the Spanish media that overall the Jamaican squad didn’t wish to travel for the friendly in Lleida.
The game is anticipated to be rescheduled ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifiers, although that obviously depends on the state of play relating to Coronavirus. The Boyz, back in the CONCACAF Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifiers – the final stage – for the first time since 2012, are aiming to make their second appearance at the World Cup finals.
They last reached football’s biggest stage at the 1998 World Cup finals in France, when Whitmore was a key figure in the heart of defence.
Although the postponement of the Catalonia match is a big blow for Whitmore, he will be undoubtedly buoyed by the fact that the Bob Marley Foundation – led by the late singer’s daughter Cedella Marley – has engaged in a partnership with the Jamaica Football Federation to assist with marketing and sponsorship generation for Boyz and their forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign.
The next World Cup finals are scheduled to take place in Qatar, the world’s wealthiest country, in November and December 2022.
But Whitmore has his work cut out to determine his best squad for the six-nation qualifying competition to reach Qatar. His task is to oversee home and away in a league format, and he cannot afford any slip ups as only the top three teams automatically qualify for the lucrative 2022 World Cup finals in the Middle East.