'We will qualify for the Olympics!'

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    MNOjNHZujG
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    The Olympic Games is the biggest multi-sport event on the planet.

    Olympics
    It is, for good reason, the most anticipated and most watched sporting spectacle and serves as the platform for the realisation of dreams of countless athletes across its range of disciplines.

    The next Games will be Tokyo 2020, and while Jamaica has done exceedingly well at these Games in track and field and a few other disciplines, the country has never participated in the sport of football.

    It is the hope of Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts that this can all change.

    Speaking at a ceremony at the UWI/JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence recently, Ricketts boldly declared: “We will qualify for the Olympics.”

    With the Games just over two years away and the qualification tournaments on the horizon the JFF, through the assistance of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), will begin the process of selecting from a pool of 50 invitees an ultimate squad of 30 players to launch an assault in becoming the first qualifiers to the Under-23 tournament.

    Ricketts, addressing players, underscored the importance of discipline in the quest to achieve the goals and objectives ahead of them.

    “I want to recommend that the Under-23s that will participate, you must be at your utmost best as it relates to your discipline. When we qualified (for the World Cup) in 1998 it was said that the English-based players brought a level of discipline to the locals that we had never seen before. We want to ensure that we maintain the highest levels of discipline,” he implored.

    “Never before has a Jamaican football team qualified for the Olympics. This time we are giving it the best shot ever and I must say thanks again to Mr (Christopher) Samuda, to Mr (Ryan) Foster and to the rest of the JOA.

    “I want to mention the work of coach (Wendell) Downswell, who has overall responsibility as director of football. Coach Donovan Duckie (will) take charge of this U-23 team, coach Theodore Whitmore, of course, will have oversight responsibility. We aim not to qualify only for the Olympics, but also the World Cup as well,” Ricketts concluded.

    JOA President Samuda told the players that they held the “future” of Jamaica’s football in their hands.

    “The faith and confidence that the Jamaica Olympic Association and the Jamaica Football Federation have placed in you must not be misplaced. You have in the palm of your hands the future, not only of yourselves, but of football and, more importantly, you have in your hands the future of a nation that is looking for you to mark history in a way that will not only be indelible, but will serve as a signal to others that we can, if only we will,” declared Samuda.

    The JOA president intimated that Jamaica should be playing in the Olympic Games football competition as a right.

    “The Jamaica Olympic Association is about business unusual… we are about business that will not only encapsulate national pride, but will stake our claim, rightfully, on the international stage where we belong. And why we belong on the international stage is because we have the talent,” Samuda said.

    JFF Director of Football Downswell recollected the occasion when Jamaica came closest to historically qualifying for the Olympic Games in 1996.

    “That successful journey when we qualified for the 1998 campaign, the players of the Olympic squad played a significant role after we were just edged out on qualifying for the Olympic Games. Andy Williams, Onanadi Lowe, Gregory Messam, Fabian Davis, Donald Stewart and others after that, they formed an integral part of that 1998 campaign and the rest is history,” noted Downswell.

    Tevin Shaw, who was a part of the Reggae Boyz squad that had the successful tour of the eastern Caribbean recently, is a part of the 50-member squad and he, like Ricketts, believes that discipline will be a key factor in qualification.

    “Definitely this young squad has a bundle of talent, but they are emphasising the discipline. With the discipline we will be able to go to the Olympics with ease because the talent is here. We just have to keep working hard because there is a lot of raw talent here, but talent is just a part of it,” he said.

    The man on whose shoulders the responsibility of qualification lies is Donovan Duckie, and he will be focusing on a style of play that suits Jamaica.

    “The players need to understand what is expected of them. We have selected only 50, but I think we could have a pool of 250 players. We will also have to take into consideration the overseas players, because there are a lot of overseas players that can play here. We have to establish a solid foundation, establish a system of play, develop a culture that is conducive to our people — and we want to see that reflected in the way that we will play,” said the Waterhouse coach.

    — Dwayne Richards

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