Thanks, Coca-Cola; good luck, Boyz

Friday, February 01, 2013

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AGAINST a backdrop of doubt and fear as Jamaica prepare for the final phase of the 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign, news of Coca-Cola's sponsorship of the football programme couldn't have come at a better time.

We feel Reggae Boyz coach, Mr Theodore Whitmore, perhaps best contextualised Coca-Cola's gesture.

"We have to give thanks for any support we can get, and this is a tremendous boost... football is not only played on the field, but off the field as well...," said Mr Whitmore.

We join in urging other companies to follow Coca-Cola's lead. Mr William Mahfood, head of the Wisynco Group which distributes on behalf of Coca-Cola in Jamaica, described the deal as an opportunity for the company to "give back" to Jamaica after years of successful business.

What's also true, and well recognised by forward-thinking business houses the world over, such as Coca-Cola, is the marketability of the Jamaica brand. That's the real reason German auto manufacturers Volkswagen hitched the distinctive Jamaican dialect to the promotion of their product.

Should Jamaica do as well as this newspaper fully expects, and secure a place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, no sponsor will have had any reason for regret.

That said, the first step in this Round of Six qualifying campaign -- against mighty Mexico at the Azteca Stadium on Wednesday night -- is a daunting one. Mexico is no ordinary football nation. It has a rich history and its current squad is easily the most technically equipped in the CONCACAF region; and among the world's more respected.

Also, the Azteca Stadium, the home of Mexican football in Mexico City, is a place feared by all visitors. Located in Mexico City at 7,200 feet above sea level, and with a capacity of more than 100,000 people, the Azteca often leaves visitors gasping for air. It's not by accident that Jamaica have never won and indeed have never even looked like playing to a draw at the Azteca.

Perhaps Wednesday's task has been made more difficult by the withdrawal from the squad of the talented English-based striker, Mr Jermaine Beckford, because of injury. Mr Beckford would have been in line for his debut as a Jamaica International. Yet his replacement by another overseas professional, the US-based Mr Je-Vaughn Watson, speaks to the depth of experience now available to Jamaica's coaches.

That experience will be crucial in Wednesday night's game, as Jamaica look to create history and come away with at least a point. The players will have to keep their heads and not panic under what will be intense pressure. They must keep their tactical shape and be disciplined enough not to chase unnecessarily.

At the end of it all, regardless of the result, all of us must bear in mind something we have said before in this space: that this is just the start, just one game. The qualifying campaign for Brazil in 2014 will remain to be conquered or lost.

We wish the Reggae Boyz well.




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