Thursday, September 18, 2014

British-Jamaicans turned Jamaica around in 1997

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index.

Canada or Canadian born Players
Black English players

     Jamaica is known for its fine athletes.  Several Jamaican-born footballers such as England's John Barnes became star players in the UK and the United States.  However, its football team never made almost any impact in the international stage.  Then, in 1997, after a 0-0 draw with Mexico, Jamaica qualified for the WC Finals in France.  Their success story was a mixture of a golden generation of homegrown talents and the mobilization of British Jamaican footballers in the English Preimer League.
        The road to the World Cup in France started four years earlier when Brazilian technical director René Simoes took over the Reggae Boyz . He turned the team from a team of "performing seals" into a team of professional players.  In 1997, they surprised everyone by finishing ahead of Mexico in the Third Round of the CONCACAF World Cup Qualification and reached the Final Round.  Homegrown talents such as Warren Barrett, Theodore Whitmore, Ricardo Gardner, Walter Boyd and Onandi Lowe contributed to the campaign.

         The Final Round, however, did not go well for the Reggae Boyz.  Jamaica suffered 2 draws and 2 defeats in the first 4 games before beating El Salvador in the 5th game. On the 6th game, Jamaica began its turnaround.  They brought four British-born Jamaicans into the squad. Against Canada on September, 1997, Fitzroy Simpson, Paul Hall, Robbie Earle and Dean Burton made their debut.  The team remained undefeated for the rest of the WC Qualifiers.  They managed notable draws against the two CONCACAF superpowers, the United States and Mexico. Dean Burton would end the World Cup Qualifying campaign with 4 goals in 5 games.
           Jamaica's search for football talents in the UK did not end with the World Cup Qualfication.  They would bring in Frank Sinclair, Marcus Gayle and Darryl Powell for the WC Finals.  

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