Theodore “Tappa” Whitmore, head coach of Jamaica’s Senior Reggae Boyz, who was recently contracted to lead the nation’s footballers back to the promised land of World Cup glory, is not a happy camper.
That position became very clear in a recent newspaper interview when he lamented the apparent lack of support from his employers, the Jamaica Football Federation, in helping him solve some areas of concern he has identified in his pool of players.
Need European-based players
He had proposed to the federation that European-based players be engaged in an obvious effort to bolster certain areas on the pitch and his team set-up that he thought were of paramount importance.
The new CONCACAF Nations League, a qualifier for the CONCACAF Gold Cup Tournament, is set to kick off next month and the proactive Whitmore had long asked that the JFF make arrangements for him to travel to Europe, primarily the United Kingdom, to meet with and discuss his plans for the future and the roles he envisaged these individuals playing.
He wanted to visit these players prior to the end of last season and long before they would have penciled in their vacation itinerary with their families.
Whitmore knew that despite engineering a fairly successful run to the Gold Cup final last year with a team comprising mainly locally based players, a few from Major League Soccer, as well as others from the lower leagues of American football, a number of key areas was void of real quality to take the team to the next level where it can consistently compete for top honors in the region.
His frustration was brought to the fore as he’s now inside a month to kick off of the CONCACAF Nation’s League and he has not yet managed to meet with these players, much less arrive at a position to integrate them into the team.
At the time Whitmore had expressed a desire to speak with Adrian Mariappa, Michael Hector among others who had not been selected to the Reggae Boyz squad since the forced departure German coach Winfried Schaefer nearly two years ago.
The Reggae Boyz are scheduled to play two friendly internationals in the eastern Caribbean in the coming week – against Grenada on August 17, and Barbados three days later.
With those games falling outside the FIFA-approved window for international games, Whitmore will have to rely on local-based players only to do the job then.
The job the current players are expected to do against these weaker Caribbean teams, but, moreso, against the more seasoned Central American and North American teams enhances Whitmore’s view that these players would be inadequate to consistently execute the job.
But can the obvious discord between the technical leader, Whitmore, and his bosses at the JFF survive?
Only time will tell, but how did they get here in the first place, and is this a surprise?
Impasse isn’t surprising
Truth be told it is not a surprise. One only needs to reflect on the long, drawn-out saga relating to Whitmore being contracted to a four-year agreement in the first instance.
Jamaica’s Sport Minister Olivia Grange was forced to intervene and bring the parties together in order for common ground to be reached. This was after Whitmore had tendered his resignation from the post as interim head coach after he ran out of patience with the “nothingness” that the Mike Ricketts-led administration had employed.
It had reached such a low point at one stage that the senior team journeyed to the eastern Caribbean for two games and Whitmore, who had tendered his resignation during the time the team was announced, was initially snubbed from the touring party, with assistant Jerome Waite and Donovan Duckie given the reins of the team.
Though the parties had technically reached an agreement prior to the team’s departure, Whitmore was not reinstated as head coach. However, immediately after news broke that the man who would be tasked with selecting players had not been reinstated to guide the team for the two friendly games, a compromise was arrived at where Whitmore was booked to travel but not as coach of the team. That scenario gave a clear and unambiguous indication that Whitmore and the hierarchy of the JFF were at odds.
Given basket to carry water
And now on the eve of the new CONCACAF Nations League there seems to be no amicable working relationship between the two, leaving Whitmore to believe that he is being given the proverbial “basket to carry water.”
It is our view that the JFF has to lead from the front and indicate in no uncertain manner its policy regarding the use of European-based players, so that coach Whitmore and his technical staff can reasonably plan and strategize with the full knowledge of the pool of players at their disposal.
But the JFF should be aware that if it does not lend support to the head coach, failure to advance to the Gold Cup under this new format or failure to progress in World Cup qualifiers could prove a political disaster.
They had better think on these things.