I must admit to being quite discombobulated and confused as I try to begin the analysis of the Reggae Boyz shock defeat at home to lowly Nicaragua in the first game of the 2018 World Cup qualification. There were simply so many things that went wrong for Jamaica heading into and during that game, beginning with the fundamental error that took place well before last Friday night’s game. The decision by the JFF and or the coaching staff not to have played a single game at our home venue for more than two years is as brainless and as naive a decision as anyone could have taken, considering that home advantage is so vital in football generally, but especially in World Cup qualifying. The psychological and physical advantage of playing at home were basically surrendered by that foolhardy decision. Tactically, head coach Winfried Schafer and company must have been stone drunk from the recent Gold Cup performances to have entered the game with such arrogance and naivety. The fact that this is a home-and-away tie against a team that they knew very little about, and with so much at stake, means that the priority must have been to keep your defensive shape, for as long as it would have taken, to assess the Nicaraguans, instead of darting up the field, and like some immature schoolboys, totally losing their shape and discipline. To go three-nil down at home in a World Cup qualifier to a team ranked 80-odd places below us on the FIFA rankings is inexcusable and under normal circumstances would be a dismissible offence by any coach in any self-respecting football jurisdiction. The actual set-up of the team by Schafer and his staff was simply befuddling. The hype surrounding young defender Michael Hector’s recent signing by English Premier League champions Chelsea must have further intoxicated the Jamaican coaching staff. The fact is that this columnist and many other astute football observers have seen that Hector is an awkward liability in the defensive third whenever the ball is at his feet. His first, second, third, fourth, and fifth touches are equally atrocious. Despite the Chelsea buy and the reasons behind it, almost everyone except the Jamaican coaching staff has seen that Hector is an accident waiting to happen, the more he is asked to control, dribble, and pass the football. Yet Schafer and company put him to play as basically the last defender, doing most of the ball handling in that delicate defensive area, easily one of the daftest tactical decisions ever seen at this level of football. Not only is Adrian Marriappa a senior pro compared to Hector, but the Crystal Palace man is much more comfortable with the ball at his feet, while Hector’s strengths are tacking higher up the park, reading and intercepting passes, and winning headers. That logical switch of positions between the two never took place in the entire 90 minutes. I found it very instructive that Schafer hardly moved from his seat on the bench during the game. He was definitely not the Schafer we saw at the Gold Cup, who was so consumed with passion and intensity. On Friday night, with the Jamaica team staring smack down the barrel of a World Cup embarrassment, Schafer remained slumped in his seat for most of the game, with his assistant, Miguel Coley, being the one expressing the requisite concerns. Based on all we saw in that first-leg game against Nicaragua, an embarrassing first-round exit is certainly on the cards. Jamaica will need to win by two clear goals in Managua tonight to avoid that pending disaster. Can Jamaica recover? Most certainly, but it is imperative that the Boyz and especially coach Winfried Schafer be fully awakened from their drunken stupor.
Paul Palmer Jr has been named to lead the Jamaica Scorpions in this year’s WICB Four-Day Professional League.The 23-year-old former Under-19 skipper replaces long-time captain Tamar Lambert.Palmer Jr a left-hand opening batsman, who is yet to represent Jamaica at the senior regional level, has represented the Combined Campuses and Colleges and the UWI Vice-Chancellor’s XI in two first-class and two one-day matches.There was no place for the 34-year-old Lambert in the13-man squad for their opening fixture against Barbados Pride at Kensington Oval on November 6.The squad, which was announced yesterday at the end of the sixth and final trial match at Sabina Park, also includes Barbados batsman Kirk Edwards, who was drafted earlier thisseason.Meanwhile, rain brought a premature end to the sixth trial match yesterday.Resuming on six without loss in chase of 310 for victory, John Campbell’s XI closed on 168 for six against Palmer’s XI. Opener Campbell made 31 while leg-spinner, Damion Jacobs claimed three for 19 for Palmer’s XI.Jamaica Scorpions squad: Paul Palmer Jr (captain), John Campbell, Brandon King, Kirk Edwards, Chadwick Walton, Andre McCarthy, Carlton Baugh Jr, David Bernard Jr, Nikita Miller, Damion Jacobs, Marquino Mindley, Jason Dawes and Nicholson Gordon.
Ever since the break-up of the Soviet Union, Russia has consistently been a major power in world athletics. Its combined strength on the track and in the field crystallised in 2013, when the World Championships were held in Moscow. Powered by vociferous home support, Russia topped the medal table with seven gold medals in their haul of 17. Just two years later at the World Championships, Russia plummeted to ninth with just four medals, including two of the golden variety. The reasons for the fall of the Russians have become clear in recent months. Sadly, as indicated by a recent World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) report, there was manipulation of the drug testing process in Russia. The fall was fast. Even as recently as 2014, Russia placed fourth on the medal table at the European Championships. Great Britain, the top team, took home just one medal more than the Russians. In Beijing, host of this year’s World Championships, the Russian effort paled in comparison to past performances. Many fans made the comparison and wondered. The answers have emerged from a WADA team that visited Russia and it isn’t a pretty sight. NEW ATHLETIC CHIEF Since then, Russia has appointed a new athletics chief and fired coaches who have been implicated. When the full WADA report is published, it will show how much more needs to be done to completely clean up things in Russia. If that’s the end of the trauma athletics has to face, that would be acceptable. The worry is that French investigations of ex-IAAF President Lamine Diack will unearth problems elsewhere. All we can do is wait and see. Athletes who lost medals to drug-powered Russians will also face a long wait. When Marion Jones of the United States of America (USA) finally lost her gold for the 2000 Olympic 100/200 double, no one would guess that even now, some of those medals would not be awarded. With Jones out, the gold fell naturally to Ekaterina Thanou of Greece. She ran into drug-related troubles in 2004, but Tayna Lawrence, who crossed the line third in 2000, hasn’t got the gold yet. So those affected by the Russian misdeeds may need to be very patient. – Hubert Lawrence has made notes by track side since 1980.
JAMAICA’s female combined martial arts team captain, Sheckema Cunningham, made history on Saturday in Stuttgart, Germany, winning gold at the International Sport Kickboxing Association’s (ISKA) International German Open.The Open is a German qualifier for the World Championships to be held in Stuttgart, May 2016.Cunningham, the first Jamaican to medal at the historic tough European tournament, was the sole black female competitor among 1,700 fighters.The toast of the preliminary rounds, Cunningham arrived in Stuttgart Friday night with coach Jason McKay. She shook off jet lag to win gold by beating German champion Kerstin Schmidbauer, 15-13, in an epic final.”It was rough and the fighters were really good, but I was more aggressive and had my coach shouting me on, forcing me to take the fight to her,” the relieved gold medallist told The Gleaner.Victory in Stuttgart qualified Cunningham for the World Championship in Stuttgart next year.An elated McKay said Cunningham’s chances of taking gold at the World Championships were bright.”She was clinical and showed great fighting spirit. She can take gold at the Worlds next year,” he said.Cunningham shone at the ISKA US Open in July, winning her three fights in leading Jamaica to a silver medal in the Gold Cup won by Germany.Among her accolades is a bronze medal in sparring at the International Taekwon-Do Federation 2011 World Championships.
Prepared for tough game Former leaders Portmore United could find themselves overtaken by Humble Lion when the two meet today in the Red Stripe Premier League at Effortville Community Centre. Portmore United currently sit second in the table on 31 points, two behind leaders Montego Bay United and three ahead of Humble Lion. Normally, the visitors would be favoured to win, but they are on a two-game losing streak, losing 2-1 to 10th-placed Cavalier SC and 3-0 to seventh-placed Boys’ Town at the Juici Park field. This form should convince the Humble Lion players and fans that they have a good chance, especially at home. “We lost some points that we didn’t bargain for ourselves, and they are coming off two straight losses, but we will not be fooled by that. “They will be coming to up the tempo against us, and even with those losses, we would be prepared for a tough game from them,” Vassell Reynolds, coach of Humble Lion said of today’s big clash. He added: “On paper, it is a Clarendon derby, as we are based in Clarendon and a large percentage of the Portmore United players are based in the parish. With that situation, neither team needs anything more to motivate the players.” Leading up to this game, Reynolds said his players trained well with a lot of emphasis on the mental aspects of the game. “We did a lot on the mental side, which will be key to the outcome of this game. “Wolry Wolfe has been leading the charge for us and others like Levaughn Williams, Ricardo Cousins, Devon Hodges, and FranÁois Swaby are also capable of delivering for us. Once we can get them to join the likes of Wolfe and Andrew Vanzie, in terms of performance and leadership, we will be fine,” the positive Reynolds said. As far as Portmore United’s Clive Marshall is concerned, the main focus for his team is to improve on their last two performances and return to their productive ways. Nothing else matters. “This game is more like a derby, given tradition and history, but we are not looking at it like that. We are looking at improving on our last two results and returning to winning ways,” manager Marshall said. According to Marshall, there is no time for making excuses about why they lost and the manner in which they lost. It was time taking responsibility and putting measures in place to correct the mistakes and not repeating them. While Jovan East has been the most consistent in front of goal this season and Ewan Grandison in one of the most experienced, Marshall said getting back to winning ways was not up to one or two players but the entire team. “We have a young team, but if the more experienced players provide the leadership and the other players respond in a similar way then we will be OK, but it has to be a team effort,” declared Marshall. At Barbican Stadium Boys’ Town will be looking to follow up their big win over Portmore United with a victory over the stabilising UWIFC while Cavalier can keep themselves out of the relegation zone with a win over Waterhouse. Today’s games: 3 p.m: Boys’ Town vs UWI FC – Barbican Stadium 5 p.m: Cavalier vs Waterhouse – Stadium East 3 p.m: Humble Lion vs Portmore United – Effortville Community Centre 3 p.m: Reno vs Rivoli United – Frome Complex 3 p.m: Tivoli Gardens vs Arnett Gardens – Edward Seaga Complex Tomorrow’s game: 8:40 p.m: Harbour View vs Montego Bay United – Harbour View Stadium Points standing P W D L GF GA GD O Pts MoBay United 17 9 6 2 29 11 18 33 Portmore 17 9 4 4 18 14 4 31 Arnett 17 9 2 6 24 13 11 29 Humble Lion FC 17 7 7 3 14 11 3 28 H.View 17 6 6 5 18 18 0 24 Reno 17 5 7 5 17 19 -2 22 Boys’ Town 17 6 4 7 19 22 -3 22 UWI FC 17 6 4 7 16 23 -7 22 Tivoli 17 5 4 8 21 23 -2 19 Cavalier 17 4 5 8 7 14 -7 17 Rivoli 17 4 4 9 19 25 -6 16 Waterhouse 17 3 5 9 13 22 -9 14
Waterhouse will play Arnett at 6 p.m., moving away from the earlier starts at home this season, and Young says it could work in his team’s favour. “We will get some more people to come to the game. It should be a good day to get the desired result – a win. We will treat every game as a final based on where we are in the Premier League standings,” he noted. “We will try to win as many games as we can but will be going at it one game at a time,” Young, who left a coaching job in the United States to be at Waterhouse, said. “I bring a certain amount of professionalism, and the players have bought into it,” he claimed. Young also disclosed that veteran Kevin Lamey, who was a prolific scorer for Waterhouse in the past, could be used this season as a player-coach. “Lamey is a part of the plans but will not be included against Arnett. He is an experienced striker and is helping to guide the young ones. He is in training.” Young said. Waterhouse FC’s technical director and senior team head coach, Paul Young, is aiming to start the New Year on a positive note when they host defending champions Arnett Gardens in the Red Stripe Premier League on Sunday. The Drewsland-based club is rooted at the bottom of the 12-team standings on 15 points from 18 games. Third-place Arnett Gardens are on 32 points, but despite the gap between the teams, a fierce contest is anticipated. Waterhouse started the season with Calvert Fitzgerald as coach, but he was quickly replaced by Anthony Patrick. Young, who took over the team on December 10, is yet to win after two games. Both ended in drawn results. With 15 games remaining in the preliminary stage, the former Reggae Boy striker believes he can move the team to safety first and a possible semi-final spot. “The effort is there at training every day. The attitude is good, and the team spirit is good, so I’m looking forward to good things on Sunday. It’s not that the players are not training because they are at the bottom of the league. The atmosphere is different,” Young told The Gleaner in an interview at the Red Stripe Premier League weekly press conference at Red Stripe yesterday. Good day anticipated
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):Test captain Jason Holder says the standard of regional pitches needs to be improved if teams are to produce more attractive cricket.The 24-year-old, also the Barbados Pride skipper, said that scores in the ongoing Regional Super50 had been low because pitches were slow and turning and not conducive to good strokeplay.”It’s been tough. Obviously, the scores are not what we’ve been accustomed to in one-day cricket, and I think that’s been due to the slow pitches,” Holder said.”I’ve found it very difficult so far batting in this tournament, in the middle overs especially, and trying to get the ball off the square. I think spinners are dominating it, and that’s because the ball has spun quite early and quite sharply.”I just think we need to work a little bit more on improving our pitches and … strokeplay, and the viewing of the cricket would be a lot better.”The highest total of the tournament has been Jamaica Scorpions’ 260 against minnows ICC Americas at the Sir Frank Worrell ground at St Augustine here in the second-round Group ‘A’ contest.In Group ‘B’ played in St Kitts, the highest total there was 255 by Guyana Jaguars in the final round when they chased down a competitive total set by Combined Campuses and Colleges Marooners.Between both groups, there have been 14 totals under 200 runs, with four of these coming at Queen’s Park Oval, and Holder said that the par score at the tournament’s premier venue would be quite small.”It’s been a tough pitch. The games I’ve seen here and have played here have been tough going in terms of batting, so you have to be very sharp in the field in terms of restricting opposition under 200 runs. I think 200, 210 is probably a par score on this track.”The tournament is in its final stages. Barbados Pride clash with Windward Islands Volcanoes in the second semi-final today.
Strong belief While acknowledging the threat posed by a strong England side, Sammy told reporters there was strong belief in the squad that they could defeat whatever opposition was placed in front of them. “I feel very excited. We left the Caribbean with one goal on that journey, which was to win the Cup, and both our men’s and women’s teams have created that opportunity to do that and, as a group, we are really excited,” Sammy said. “The confidence in the group and the belief in the group are really high and really good, and we’re looking forward again to playing England. They are a very good side. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s a step we’re willing to take.” West Indies will carry into the final the confidence of having beaten England already in the tournament. In their opening game in Mumbai, the Caribbean side chased down England’s 183 to win with 11 balls to spare, with superstar opener Chris Gayle lashing an unbeaten hundred. Since then, they defeated Sri Lanka by seven wickets in Bangalore, edged South Africa by three wickets in Nagpur before suffering their only defeat days later at the same venue with a shock six-run loss to minnows Afghanistan. They remarkably chased down 193 to beat the Indians in Mumbai last Thursday, and Sammy said everyone was aware they were on the brink of their ultimate goal. Consistent “We came here after winning [the] tournament in 2012. A hail storm knocked us out in Bangladesh [in 2014]. It’s a format we’ve been consistent in, but nobody gives us a chance,” Sammy pointed out. “We just wanted to take six steps. It’s a six-step process to the Cup. We have taken five steps. We took a big one against India. We had a bit of a skid on the way [against Afghanistan], which kind of knocked us off, but we got up. We are left with one more step. “We have improved, we believe in each other. We enjoy each other’s success. Just thinking about lifting that Cup tomorrow, I could almost foresee what’s going to happen after. We have a cricket game to play first.” Sammy has been lucky enough to win the toss in every game to date, opting to chase on each occasion. And while they uncharacteristically struggled against the Afghans, they have been dominant in their pursuit of targets, especially packing a battery of big hitters like Gayle, Johnson Charles, Andre Fletcher and Andre Russell. He warned that West Indies were not only a chasing team and would bat well regardless of if they were asked to bat first or second. And with criticism that West Indies’ batting was one-dimensional with all power-hitters, Sammy said the side would continue to play to their strengths. “Whatever we do, we just have to do it well. I’ve been lucky enough to win all five tosses that I’ve taken, but in case England win [the toss], we’ve just got to bat well, bowl well or defend when that time comes. It’s a final and whatever each team does, we just have to do it well,” he outlined. Note: The match starts at 8:30 a.m. (Jamaica time) on ESPN. KOLKATA, India, CMC: Confident West Indies will rely on their unshakable self-belief and devastating power hitting when they clash with an inform England in today’s final of the Twenty20 World Cup in a quest for their second title in five years. Ranked as outsiders before the start of the tournament, the Darren Sammy-led unit has torn up the form books and silenced critics, topping their group in the preliminaries, with just one defeat, before stunning title favourites India in last Thursday’s semi-final, to reach the championship game.
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (CMC):Captain Nikita Miller’s 26th five-wicket haul in first-class cricket helped Jamaica Scorpions halt their losing skid with a convincing 87-run victory over Trinidad and Tobago Red Force inside three days yesterday.Set a modest but tricky 229 for victory at Queen’s Park Oval, the hosts were bundled out for 141 – the second time in the contest they failed to crack 200 after being dismissed for 173 in their first innings.Miller scythed through the innings to finish with five for 45 and claim match figures of nine for 85. In the process, the 34-year-old passed 450 wickets in first-class cricket.Leg-spinner Damion Jacobs provided the support, picking up three for 55 to add to his three from the first innings.Marlon Richards, batting at number eight, top-scored with 47, while captain and opener Kyle Hope chipped in with 35 and Isaiah Rajah, 23.Red Force lost Jeremy Solozano for two, but cruised to 60 for one courtesy of a 51-run, second-wicket stand between Hope and the left-handed Rajah.MULTIPLE WICKETSBut Miller and Jacobs combined to trigger a collapse where five wickets tumbled for eight runs in the space of 53 deliveries.Richards brandished his bat to good effect, cracking three fours and four sixes in a 43-ball cameo, but the damage was already done and Red Force never recovered.Earlier, Scorpions were dismissed for 201 – the same score as their first innings – after resuming the day on 172 for seven.Left-arm seamer Sheldon Cottrell picked up two of the three wickets to fall to finish with three for 52 while seamer Rayad Emrit failed to add to his tally from Saturday, ending with three for 30.Scorpions had lost both of their games since the restart of the competition earlier this month.
Major objective KINGSTON: Seeking to expand the reach of the game, the Jamaica Squash Association (JSA) has rolled out an outreach training programme with Penwood High School. Under the programme, eight female students from Penwood will participate in squash training sessions each Saturday at the Liguanea Club in New Kingston. The inaugural workshop was conducted last week by seven-time All Jamaica squash champion Chris Binnie. Fresh from the successful defence of his national title at the All Jamaica Championships last month, Binnie gave the girls an introductory squash lesson before taking them through a series of on-court drills and some match simulation. Subsequent sessions will be conducted by certified coach and 13-time All Jamaica ladies champion Karen Anderson and JSA junior programme manager Gill Binnie. The major objective of the initiative is to expose youngsters to the sport with a view to recruiting new competitive and recreational players. “In order to keep local squash growing we have to ensure that a wider cross section of people get to experience the fun and excitement of the sport,” Gill Binnie said. “The JSA is developing a programme to work with both primary and high schools, and although we are starting it on a small scale we hope to attract financial support so we can broaden the scope in the future,” she added. The Penwood students will participate in training sessions until the end of the school year in late June. After the initial training programme, players will have the option to become part of the JSA’s junior squash programme.