‘Seize the moment’
Former national youth player Alex Thomas says the young Reggae Boyz have to produce the same gladiator spirit they did 20 years ago to achieve their dream of an Under-20 World Cup finals berth.
Jamaica will face the Dominican Republic today at 6 p.m. at the Olympico Metropolitano in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, with a win guaranteeing their place in next year's Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia.
Thomas was part of that successful 2001 team that qualified for the World Cup (formerly FIFA World Youth Championship) and described how they had to dig deep in that qualifying tournament in Canada.
"Today they have to put their lives on the line, they have to give it everything and I believe that they will come out on top. Because going back to our qualification in 2001 we just needed a draw against Mexico and they were tough opponents," Thomas told STAR Sports yesterday. "It was so cold and we had to dig in. So they have to put their hearts, their minds, their bodies, everything tomorrow."
After a difficult start with with a 1-1 draw against Costa Rica, in their opening game and losing 5-0 to host nation Honduras, Jamaica rattled off wins against Antigua and Barbuda in their final group game and Haiti in the round of 16. Thomas said that the Boyz have to seize the moment and he believes that the technical team under head coach Marcel Gayle is in the position to do so.
"We haven't been to the tournament for so long so this is a big opportunity and they should grab it with both hands. They have a good coaching staff led by Marcel Gayle. I have to commend them for preparing the team in such a short period of time without any international experience," Thomas said.
Former national player Sean Fraser who was also part of the team that competed in that 2001 World Cup said that it would be a proud milestone if they could repeat the same feat they did.
"It took a lot of hard work, dedication and discipline and the right attitude for us back then to qualify. (Back then) you had to play a bunch of games just to get to the last round. I think it would be great for the country (if they qualified) as we have not done so for the longest while," Fraser said.