Reggae Boyz in upbeat mood

Jamaica’s celebrated Reggae Boyz arrive in the Cayman Islands on Monday.


Whitmore inspired the kids. Photo: Ron Shillingford

It will be a new look outfit as the legendary former Liverpool and England winger John Barnes is the head coach and assistant coach is Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore.

They will be here for a week for an extensive training camp.

Barnes starts his contract with the Jamaica Football Federation as technical director of the National Program on November 1. He made a big impact on English football as a striker and will always be remembered for the spectacular goal he scored against Brazil in a friendly there in 1984.

His career was full of excitement and he is one of the highest profile black footballers to ever grace the English game. He has obviously been a significant individual in exposing racist attitudes and, hopefully, in going some way towards eradicating them.

Barnes, 44, was born in Kingston, Jamaica arrived in England in his teens when he moved with his family to Watford.

He was spotted as a youngster playing on a local park, taken on by the local non-league side, Sudbury Court, which then brought him to the attention of Watford where he became a fixture.

He went on as a substitute for Malcolm Poskett, aged 17, against Oldham Athletics early on in the 1981-82 season and made an immediate impression.

Barnes awas given his first start the following week away at Chelsea. Watford won 3-1 and there was no looking back. Within a couple of years he had made his England debut and he went on to earn 79 caps, scoring 11 times.

Since his retirement from playing Barnes has focused on coaching and has travelled excessively worldwide and in the Caribbean in particular passing on tips to aspiring footballers.

Barnes and Whitmore will head this training camp and involve practice games against the Cayman Islands national team and a Cayman Invitational team including overseas-based national keeper Tuda Murphy.

This training camp is part of the preparations for the Reggae Boyz leading into the Digicel Caribbean Championship finals which will be hosted in Jamaica from December 1-15.

The Reggae Boyz party will consist of a 30-member delegation including officials and local-based players who will be vying for places in Jamaica’s Digicel Caribbean Championship squad as the England-based members of the team will not be available for the tournament.

All the expenses for the trip are being covered by the Cayman Islands Football Association in partnership with Western Union, Hot 104, DMS, Money Centre and NCB. Sponsorship covers airfair tickets, hotel accommodation, ground transportation, meals and all additional essential necessities needed for the training camp.

Jamaica is in a good position to advance to the next round of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers games having won their last two matches under Whitmore after Rene Simoes was fired last month.

For Jamaica to advance to the next World Cup phase, Mexico will have to beat Honduras and Jamaica beat Canada. If Mexico draw with Honduras then Jamaica would have to beat Canada by four clear goals to advance with a better goal average as both teams would end up with ten points each.

The Reggae Boyz first made their debut in the World Cup in 1998 in France as the first English-speaking Caribbean country to ever compete at that level. Although not making it to the next round Jamaica defeated Japan 2-1 with Whitmore scoring both goals after they lost to Croatia and Argentina.

This win made Jamaica and the entire Caribbean proud even to today.

Whitmore, 36, has changed his direction to coaching and after winning several friendly games in this position has carved out a niche in the Jamaican football community.

Whitmore is a regular visitor to Cayman where he is well respected; he was here in June participating in the fundraising event put on by CIFA to raise funds for the building of the Centre of Excellence in Prospect.

He also arrived on the island last Thursday evening to participate in the Save Our Youths annual event which celebrates its fourth year under the theme Positive Choices. This event was done in collaboration with CIFA and several other sponsors. Sharon Lexa-Lamb was one of the directors of the Save Our Youth programme and she was very pleased with the turn out and Whitmore’s presence.

Future FC’s Courtney Duval, who is leaving for England next week to join the Rushden & Diamonds academy, was one of the participants.

Whitmore made an official visit to Her Majesty Prison in Northward where he met with inmates and prison officials. On Saturday he demonstrated football tactics to the youngsters and chatted with several groups in sports related matters and everyday situations that affect them as youths in their everyday lives. He left the island on Monday.