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JFF, JOA partner to kickstart Tokyo Olympic football dream

Observer staff reporter

Saturday, February 24, 2018

It is a journey to Tokyo 2020 and by extension a journey beyond Tokyo 2020.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) share the common vision of qualifying a Jamaican football team to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

And as such the two have forged a partnership aimed at bringing that vision to fruition.

The three-year partnership will be in the form of a training programme specially designed to select the top-tier Under-23 players for the Olympic programme, which will include local and international training camps and practice games.

The $8-million agreement is expected to positively impact Jamaica's football, as it will be used to cover costs associated with training camps and practice games, including nutritional support, transportation, gears and match-related costs, it was announced at a joint press conference at the JFF offices yesterday.

President of the JFF Michael Ricketts welcomed the efforts of the JOA in the concerted effort to make a historic appearance in Tokyo when the Olympic Games come around.

“We share the same kind of vision… Jamaica has never qualified for the Olympics as it relates to football and we really want to give it a real shot this time and it will be of course sponsored by JOA. They will support the growth development programme leading up to the Olympics.

“This will certainly impact not just our Under-23 programme, but I certainly hope that we will make the transition from qualifying for the Olympics to qualifying for the next global tournament,” Ricketts said in his address.

“The assistance that we will receive from the JOA will not only impact us locally, but on the international stage. This programme will not only prepare an elite team for the Olympics, but will become a feeder for the National programme... partnerships like these are fundamental to the growth of the sport,” he added.

Christopher Samuda, president of the JOA, expressed his commitment to assist the JFF in this endeavour, noting that this partnership is in the interest of the country.

“When we embarked on discussions we knew that we had a partner whose executive members shared the same vision and it is critical that we have this vision. Perhaps more importantly, the JFF and the JOA share the common vision and that vision in a self-enlightening interest context is a berth on the Olympic stage.

“And this must be taken seriously and we are taking it seriously. We have to be historic in our vision; we have to be encouraging in our vision of our young people, so our vision goes beyond Tokyo and will be in the interest of the country,” Samuda shared.

While explaining that the funding will consistently be available, Samuda stressed the significance of performing up to par as he revealed that a review will be done at the end of the first year.

“I think it is a combination of vehicles because clearly of course if the journey still continues then the funding will be there; if the performance is as such then the funding will be there, but once we get over the first hurdle then we have to review to ensure that we also get over the second hurdle.

“So the funding is not at all at risk we just want performance now and everybody understands and we (JFF and JOA) will both be working out a programme to ensure that we maximise those objectives,” Samuda explained.

Meanwhile, chief executive officer of the JOA Ryan Foster, pointed out that the funding will come from the Olympic Development Programme (ODP) through the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“The IOC has what is called Olympic Development for multiple sports across the disciplines and our 41 associations and when the JFF came to us with this proposal we saw it as an immediate fit for the JOA.

“The truth is we would love to see football in the Olympics, I know we have spent a lot of time looking at qualifying for the World Cup, but I think qualifying for the Olympics is just as important because it is the benchmark for the World Cup,” Foster opined.

A total of 50 players have been selected primarily from the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) clubs, the Under-18 Elite League and the All Manning and All DaCosta Cup teams to make up a provisional squad.

Preparations for this elite pool of players will begin in May with players being rotated for training camps during the period. The squad, as part of the initial preparation, will play practice games islandwide against RSPL and Super League teams.

The preparations are expected to intensify with international training camps and games in 2019 when CONCACAF qualifications to the 2020 Olympic Games will begin.

Donovan Duckie will lead the programme and will be assisted by a technical team to be announced in the coming weeks.