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Football in 2020

Tumultuous year for JFF amid pandemic

Published:Tuesday | January 5, 2021 | 12:17 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Jamaica forward Kemar Beckford (front) chases after the ball while being harried by Bermuda player Cecoy Robinson during their international friendly match at the Montego Bay Sports Complex on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
Jamaica forward Kemar Beckford (front) chases after the ball while being harried by Bermuda player Cecoy Robinson during their international friendly match at the Montego Bay Sports Complex on Wednesday, March 11, 2020.
Mount Pleasant’s Kevaughn Isaacs (right) gets a toe to the ball ahead of Molynes’ Tyrique Wilson during a Jamaica Premier League match at the Constant Spring Sports Complex on Sunday, December 15, 2019.
Mount Pleasant’s Kevaughn Isaacs (right) gets a toe to the ball ahead of Molynes’ Tyrique Wilson during a Jamaica Premier League match at the Constant Spring Sports Complex on Sunday, December 15, 2019.
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The coronavirus pandemic at the start of 2020 meant that Jamaica played very little football that year both locally and internationally.

On March 12, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) took the decision to suspend all local competitions indefinitely, because of the virus.

Then, in an effort to ease the impact of the pandemic on local clubs, the JFF waived over $6 million in payment to Premier League teams for the 2019-20 season. Office rental fees, utilities, registration fees, contract administrative fees, home match levies, yellow and red cards, among other things, were renounced. Each club saved over $500,000 through the measure.

However, on May 15 all hopes of a restart to the domestic competitions were dashed when JFF President, Michael Ricketts, announced the cancellation of the 2019-20 season and declared all competitions null and void.

In June, a start to the season on October 16 was projected after the JFF pushed the transfer window back by a month after a spike in COVID-19 cases. However, that start did not materialise.

REJECTED PROPOSAL

The JFF then met with the Ministry of Health & Wellness (MOHW) on October 20 to gain approval for the league but its submission was turned down and it was told to make adjustments and resubmit, which forced a rescheduling of the starting date to November 14.

But early in November, Ricketts admitted the Premier League was unlikely to begin on that date and December 6 was proposed. But their resubmission did not get a response from the MOHW.

However, all hopes of football returning for 2020 ended on December 2 when the Government declared that no team sports would take place for the remainder of the year.

However, a meeting between Health and Wellness Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and the JFF on December 22 led to Ricketts saying that he is confident the JFF will get the approval for the sport to resume in February 2021.

Jamaica registered its first coronavirus case a day before the Reggae Boyz’s international friendly against Bermuda on March 11, but the game went ahead as scheduled at the Montego Bay Sports Complex. Jamaica won 2-0.

However, a friendly planned between the Boyz and hosts Catalonia in Europe at the end of the month was postponed as the pandemic heightened on the continent. Other friendlies were also cancelled, with the JFF halting negotiations to play a Central American team and the United States in that country because of health and safety concerns in September.

However, in October they secured two friendly matches against hosts Saudi Arabia for November 14 and 17. The Boyz lost the first game 3-0 but returned to win the second match 2-1. But the trip was marred by a number of mishaps including travel arrangements for debutant Ravel Morrison. The Federation also had to act quickly to avert a strike after players demanded US$2,000 match fee compared to the US$1,000 offered by the JFF. A number of players were also forced to miss both games after contracting COVID-19.

On January 7, Hubert Busby Jr was appointed senior Reggae Girlz head coach. He replaced Hue Menzies, who walked away in December citing outstanding monies owed, lack of professionalism and a communication breakdown with the JFF. Busby was named ahead of interim coach and Menzies’ assistant, Lorne Donaldson, for the post.

A day later, Reggae Girlz benefactor Cedella Marley pitched in to pay up to 80 per cent of salaries owed to players and technical staff. The move also paved the way for Busby Jr to take charge of the team ahead of the Olympic qualifiers at the end of the month. However, a 7-0 win over St Kitts and Nevis was not enough to see the Girlz advance from their group after a 1-0 and 9-0 loss to Mexico and Canada, respectively.

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com