Reggae Boyz head coach Theodore Whitmore is charting an inimitable path on his way to becoming one of Jamaica’s all-time great coaches.
A hero of Jamaica’s football, having scored both goals in the nation’s solitary FIFA World Cup finals victory – a 2-1 result over Japan in France 1998 – the reticent Whitmore has gone about his business as a football coach in a very unassuming manner, while building an impressive Curriculum Vitae in the process.
That is why we believe that Whitmore ought to be taken seriously and treated with utmost respect by his employers, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). We vividly remember earlier this year when Whitmore and the JFF were at loggerheads over his contract which dragged on for months and was only settled after the intervention of the Minister of Sport Olivia Grange.
In fact, Whitmore was so frustrated that he tendered his resignation, which was rescinded within a week. He had had enough with the lackadaisical attitude of the new JFF administration which failed to act on a number of his proactive recommendations.
Forced to go public
Shy and often one to avoid the media limelight, Whitmore was forced to go public in recent times bearing his frustration at the idleness of his bosses. Because he’s fully aware that he will be held accountable for the results he gets, regardless of the outdated tools he’s given.
He had lashed out at the JFF top brass for not acting on his recommendation to visit and liaise with some of the senior members of the British-based Reggae Boyz, whom he believed could improve the squad in critical areas of the field. He had made the request for the meeting to be held prior to the start of the summer holidays.
But just prior to a two-game friendly international tour to the Eastern Caribbean, which ended last week, Whitmore was seething, as he had not been able to communicate with these players based overseas ahead of the start of September’s CONCACAF Nations League.
He was also not amused by the manner in which his 20-man squad selected for the recent tour was compromised with the late withdrawal of four Portmore United FC players, who had become pawns in tug-of-war between country and club. Portmore were slated to contest the first leg of the Scotiabank CONCACAF League quarter-finals on August 24, just four days after the second game of the friendly tour against Barbados.
In addition to the Portmore quartet, Javain Brown opted out of the squad as well after taking up a scholarship overseas, leaving Whitmore’s group short of a right wing back. The coach immediately requested former Jamaica College winning Manning Cup captain Maliek Howell as a replacement, but was told the day before the game against Grenada that the player would not make it for whatever reason.
Left with unbalanced squad
He was left with an unbalanced squad of 18 players, which opened up himself for ridicule, had he not meticulously configured a team to do the job. The Boyz eventually won the game 5-1.
Improved by leaps and bounds
A former Reggae Boy star player, Whitmore has improved by leaps and bounds in his tactical and technical acumen, and had garnered tremendous experience working on the FIFA Technical Committee for the various World Cup tournaments. This group, which was chaired by French coach Gerard Houllier, assessed every single game at these tournaments, after which they would file reports informing these countries of their tactical strengths and weaknesses during their campaigns.
It is not by accident that his track record has been so impressive since he was first tasked with guiding the Boyz by the late Captain Horace Burrell. He has won the Caribbean Cup, not once but twice, had taken a group of purely home-based players to the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, notching a surprised 1-0 victory over Mexico on foreign soil for the very first time on his way to the final. He had also masterminded a Reggae Boyz team with just one training session to a historic 0-0 result against the regional powerhouse Mexico in a World Cup qualifying contest at the famous Azteca Stadium in 2013.
Whitmore has always taken the CONCACAF Nations League seriously, having opted to withdraw from the FIFA Technical Committee for the Russia World Cup Finals, where he stood to earn decent money, but he put country before self by making himself available to his country in order to prepare his team adequately for the new CONCACAF Nations League which is a qualifier for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Defeats Grenada, draw with Barbados
And even with a domestic squad, eight of whom are also eligible for the Olympic Games bid, Whitmore’s men journeyed to Grenada and produced a comprehensive win, then coming from behind to earn a 2-2 result with Barbados.
Next game against Ecuador
The Boyz will next face Ecuador at the Red Bull Arena on September 7, in New York, two days before they open their campaign in the Nations League against Cayman Islands at the National Stadium.
There are reports which suggest that Whitmore has named a strong squad comprising many professionals from Europe and North America. Names such as Adrian Mariappa, Michael Hector, and Ravel Morrison, the former Manchester United player now on loan at Atlas in Mexico from Italy’s Serie A side Lazio, are expected to be available for both games. The preliminary phase of the Nations League also includes Suriname, Bonaire and El Salvador.
The coach said he takes all teams seriously so as not to be found wanting when it matters most, and finally it seems like he and the JFF are singing from the same hymnal. We wish them well.