Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz overcame numerous off-the-field challenges to bounce back and beat Saudi Arabia’s Green Falcons 2-1 in the second fixture of a two-match friendly football encounter to draw the mini-series one-all.
The Boyz had flown to the middle eastern country for two warm-up matches on Nov. 14 and 17 in preparation for the Confederation of North and Central American and Caribbean Football prestigious Gold Cup competition, scheduled for mid-next year.
But in addition to a few players and at least one member of the technical staff falling victim to the COVID-19 virus, there was the issue of a professional player protesting that he had to travel an aircraft’s economy class on the long flight, contrary to an agreement with the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF).
Then JFF narrowly averted a players’ strike threat for more pay.
Given these issues it came as no surprise that the Jamaican side went down 3-0 to the Saudi Falcons in the opening encounter at the Prince Faisal bin Fahad Stadium in Riyadh.
But the Boyz appeared to have settled down for the second encounter.
“The team was more balanced, more organized and you could see the cohesiveness. … But I can’t knock them for that because we had just two proper training sessions from the time we got here,” coach Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore told Jamaica’s Observer newspaper after the victory.
“I was pleased with every aspect of the team from back to midfield to upfront because when you look at what was missing from the previous game, a player like Javon East was missing, but today we created a number of scoring opportunities and at this level we have to put away these chances.
“I think we have enough quality and what was pleasing to me was after they scored we didn’t drop our heads. We showed guts, resilience in getting back a goal six minutes later,” said Whitmore who celebrated his 100th game coach of the national team Tuesday.
The Jamaicans’ win however still leaves them behind 2-3 in their meetings with the Saudis over the years of six encounters that also saw one 0-0 draw.
In that period the Falcons netted 14 goals and the Boyz six times.