Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz will once again be without fans for upcoming home World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and Costa Rica as the government looks to put measures in place to combat the recent spike in coronavirus cases.

The country has played the majority of its matches behind closed doors, so far, with the lone exception being its last match against the United States, which allowed for 5000 vaccinated spectators to be present.

With 15 more COVID deaths, 1,548 new cases, and a positivity rate of 51.5 percent, as of Tuesday, however, the Government has decided to return to closed-door measures.  The Reggae Boyz have been the only team in the octagonal round that has been affected so severely by coronavirus restrictions, with many other teams sticking to the practice of limiting the numbers of fans allowed at the venues.

Jamaica, however, has the lowest vaccination rate of all the countries participating in the qualifiers with just 557,000 persons fully vaccinated, representing just 20.4 percent of the population.

The Reggae Boyz will be hoping to make a late run to book a place at this year’s FIFA World Cup having found themselves well off the pace midway through the qualifiers.  The team is currently 6th in the standings on 7 points, seven short of the final qualification spot.  The team will kick off the next round with a match against Mexico on January 27th, followed by a trip to Panama three days later and a home fixture against Costa Rica on January 30.

Football’s world governing body FIFA has fined Jamaica Football Federation (JMD$170,000) for a bottle-throwing incident that occurred during the World Cup qualifying match against the United States at the National Stadium in Kingston last month.

Near the end of the match that ended in a 1-1 draw, a plastic water bottle was thrown from the bleachers' seats near the running track. The incident was reported to the FIFA security officer on-site and the JFF was subsequently fined.

According to the FIFA ruling, “The Jamaica Football Federation is ordered to pay 1000 Swiss Francs for the inappropriate behaviour of its supporters in connection with the match Jamaica vs the USA played on 16 November 2021 in the scope of the Preliminary Competition for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™, CONCACAF Zone. The fine is to be paid within 30 days of notification of the present decision.”

The JFF appealed the decision but the appeal was deemed inadmissible. In its appeal, the JFF expressed regret at the incident while pointing to its constant appeal to fans through different means not to throw objects, as well as the limitations on the sale of refreshments inside the stadium.

In light of the fine, the JFF said it was once again reminding spectators that they must follow all outlined protocols once they are within the confines of the National Stadium on match day as another breach could threaten Jamaica's hopes of hosting international games in the future.

Defender Liam Moore and forward Shamar Nicholson have overcome injury concerns to be included in a 23-man Jamaica Reggae Boyz squad for the upcoming round of qualifiers.

Moore, who plies his trade for English club Reading, was a serious doubt after suffering a bad-looking ankle injury a few weeks ago, with Nicholson suffering a fractured jaw while in action for Belgian side Charleroi.  Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey has, however, not recovered in time for the matches and will miss his second round of matches.

Queens Park Rangers forward Andre Gray and Bournemouth’s Jamal Lowe have been recalled to the squad, with in-form West Ham forward Michail Antonio also called back to the squad, after a difficult debut against Panama.

The Jamaicans will resume their campaign with matches away to the United States at home to Canada and away to Honduras.  Unlike the previous round, however, the squad should not be impacted by UK coronavirus travel rules, with none of the countries listed on the red list.

Full squad:

Andre Blake

Dillon Barnes

Dennis Taylor

Damion Lowe

Adrian Mariappa

Liam Moore

Ethan Pinnock

Alvas Powell

Oniel Fisher

Kemar Lawrence

Javain Brown

Daniel Johnson

Devon Williams

Je-Vaughn Watson

Bobby Reid

Junior Flemmings

Kemar Roofe

Jamal Lowe

Tyreek Magee

Michail Antonio

Javon East

Shamar Nicholson

Andre Gray

 

Jamaica Reggae Boyz defender, Damion Lowe, insists the team understands the frustration fans are experiencing following a slow start to the World Cup qualifiers but maintains the race to advance from the region has only just begun.

The Jamaica national team, who are looking to get to the World Cup for the first time in over 23 years, find themselves at the bottom of the eight-team group after the first three games.  The Boyz opened with a 2-1 loss away to Mexico, followed by a damaging 3-0 home loss to Panama.

The Jamaicans did, however, stage a recovery of sorts with a 1-1 draw away to Costa Rica.  The team is at this point, however, six points behind leaders Mexico who top the table with 7 and four behind the trio of Canada, the United States, and Panama who are currently in the qualifying spots, all tied on five points.  Lowe has, however, assured fans the team is far from out of the running.

“Every team goes through struggles and rough patches, unfortunately, ours was at the start of the qualifiers, but it only gives us fire in our belly and keeps us humble,” Lowe told SportsMax.TV’s InCaseYouMissedIT.

“If you look at the table we are not far off, people are tying, people are losing.  You saw Honduras, USA game, anything can happen, Concacaf is one of the hardest to qualify out of.  It’s all up in the air, nothing is decided, it’s only three games in,” he added.

 

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