‘This is history’
Jamaica’s Hockey5s skipper elated with World Cup entrance
THE JUBILATION at the Mona Hockey Field yesterday was contagious after Jamaica, through a 5-2 win over Paraguay, booked their place in the 2024 Hockey5s World Cup set for Muscat, Oman, in January.
For the first time in recent memory, a third-place playoff game meant more to spectators than the eventual final of a tournament.
With Trinidad and Tobago and eventual winners United States already through after making the final of the Hockey5s Pan American Cup, there was one spot left, and a confident Jamaica left no doubt they deserved that place.
“I mean it is very rewarding. All the hard work, everything has paid off,” said Jamaica’s captain, Ajani Burton.
The Jamaicans benefited from a Nickoy Stephenson hat-trick, the player grabbing goals in the second, sixth, and 11th minutes of play.
The World Cup debutants -elect also had a brace from Shemar Gordon, who added his tally in the eighth and 19th minutes.
Spare a thought for the visiting Paraguayans, whose goals from Elias Vera in the 10th minute and Guillermo Benitez in the 13th only proved of statistical importance.
The Jamaicans got over a rocky start to the tournament against the United States, losing 4-2 in their opening encounter, to get the better of Panama, 3-1, and Guatemala, 3-2 in a shoot-out after a 1-1 draw, to book their place in a semi-final against Trinidad and Tobago.
There, again, the Jamaicans faced a setback after Trinidad thumped them 9-2.
However, the defeats did not dent the confidence of the Jamaicans.
“When we played the USA, there were a lot of positives that we took away from it. We built on that right throughout the competition. Anything that we weren’t doing so good, we tried to address it, and thank God everything came together in the end,” said Burton.
Of course, playing at home also provided the added impetus that would eventually play out in the Jamaicans earning a World Cup bow.
“This is the first time I am playing international hockey in front of my family, in front of our friends, our country and this is amazing. This is history, and we were determined to make history because we wanted to inspire another generation after us,” Burton said, beaming.
But making it to the World Cup is just the start, the skipper explained.
“Punching our ticket means we have accomplished one of our goals. Our goal is not just to be a number at a World Cup, we are going to compete.”
Coach of the Jamaica team Duvaughn Henlon was a proud man at the end of the game, but that pride was not for the sake of his achievements.
“The players were very confident. I’m very proud of them. They have been playing some good hockey over the week. And I am just proud and happy that we could deliver for Jamaica,” he said.
While the temperature of the final, played a few minutes after Jamaica’s history-making win, was understandably lower, the quality on the pitch was high and an enthralling encounter ensued.
The United States and Trinidad and Tobago played to a 2-2 draw before the former came away 3-2 shoot-out winners.
Trinidad and Tobago opened the scoring through Mickell Pierre but were pegged back by Tyler Sundeen’s goal.
The Caribbean side would again go ahead in the 15th through Teague Marcano but were again reeled in, this time with Michael Barminski Jr’s 17th-minute effort.
Daniel Wheeler contributed to this story