For the Jamaican National Team, popularly known as the Reggae Boyz, the CONCACAF Gold Cup is more than just playing in a tournament.
“It is a chance for a group of players who view each other as family to spend a long time together doing something that they love,” said CONCACAF on Wednesday.
“Perhaps that best explains why Jamaica has made history recently in the tournament by becoming the first Caribbean nation to reach a Gold Cup Final in 2015, and then making a return trip in 2017, followed by a semifinal finish in 2019, becoming the only Caribbean team to have played in three straight Gold Cup semifinals,” it added.
CONCACAF said goal keeper (GK) Andre Blake has been a key part of those Jamaica teams, particular as the starter in the 2017 and 2019 tournaments, stating that it means a lot to the 30-year-old knowing that he has a firm place in Jamaican football (soccer) history.
“That’s big for me,” Blake told CONCACAF. “It shows that a little island like Jamaica is starting to get more and more respect as we go.
“We still have a ways to go, but we are setting an example and showing the other Caribbean teams that it’s possible,” he added. “Hopefully, we can be the first to win it.
“It’s a tournament that we always look forward to, because, as a team, we don’t really get to spend a lot of time together,” Blake continued. “As a group, most times, it’s FIFA dates. One game maybe you are together for five days or three days, but this team really thrives when we get to spend time together, and I think that’s why we always do well in this tournament.”
CONCACAF said Jamaica’s quest for a first Gold Cup title in 2021 begins in Group C, where they will face Suriname, Costa Rica and one of the qualified teams from the prelims.
“It’s an exciting time and, personally, I’m looking forward to it,” Blake said. “It’s a tournament that we’ve come so close to winning and making that final step.
“Unfortunately, we came up short,” he added. “So, there is still a bitter taste in our mouths, especially for the guys who played in those final. We are looking forward to it and, hopefully, this is the year we can go all the way.”
CONCACAF said Blake took home Golden Glove honors for his performance in the 2017 Gold Cup in helping the Reggae Boyz reach the final.
But, CONCACAF said, unfortunately for the Philadelphia Union netminder, he had to leave the final, a 2-1 loss to the United States, due to injury.
After reaching the semifinals of the 2019 Gold Cup, their third straight final four finish in a Gold Cup, CONCACAF said Jamaica has set the standard for other Caribbean teams.
Blake welcomes the rise of other Caribbean nations throughout the CONCACAF region to try to follow in Jamaica’s footsteps.
“You always want to see your fellow islanders doing well and stepping up,” he said. “Kudos to those federations for trying to secure the best players and doing what’s right to attract players to come and play.
“Everyone is improving, and that is better for the Caribbean and better competition for Jamaica when we play these games,” Blake added. “I think it’s very good, and it’s only going to get better with time.”