The notion that your home ground should be a fortress is a concept that has been perpetuated around the football world for years. Internationally, due to the less frequent nature of the games played, winning at home has conjured up a more significant importance and value and has seen many nations across the world take full advantage of this.
For some time, Jamaica’s National Stadium has always been regarded as a difficult place to come to for regional opposition, or anyone for that matter. Losing 3-0 at home to Panama back in September was unprecedented. The Office was always a place in which opponents would find it difficult to attain much success. Therefore, experiencing such a demoralizing defeat at home perhaps indicated that something was indeed missing from the fabric of the team, a factor that resulted in the absence of the usual fight and grit often associated with the Reggae Boyz inside the comfort of their own backyard.
Jamaica secured their first ever win in the 2022 World Cup Qualification campaign last Wednesday, defeating Honduras inside the Estadio Olimpico Metropolitano 2-0, a win which saw them move from the bottom of the CONCACAF table.
The argument then can be made, that if Jamaica were given the opportunity to perform to the full extent of the football match experience and have their 12th man present in home games during the World Cup Qualifiers, then the team could perhaps secure important points on the field.
Why aren’t supporters allowed in the National Stadium?
Jamaica is currently grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, as is the rest of the world. Because of this, measures have been put in place to help curtail the spread of the virus and ensure the country can resume ‘normalcy’ as soon as possible. This has in turn affected various sectors within Jamaica, and sports is one of them.
The lack of fans at football matches has resulted in significant losses for many local clubs and of course, the Jamaica Football Federation. Michael Ricketts, JFF President, posited that since the start of the 2022 World Cup Qualifying campaign, the federation has spent over $100 million USD without attaining any revenue from supporter attendance due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Other than the financial damage being done to the federation’s football initiative, the on-field action is also suffering at the hands of the Jamaican Government. Fans have long been a vital element to the atmosphere inside the National Stadium and have been notably missed during the final rounds of World Cup Qualifications.
All the other teams in the ‘octagon’ have been enjoying the benefits of having supporters cheer them on during home games while Jamaica has been left disadvantaged due to the government’s policies. The lack of fans could have massive repercussions on the country’s football.
Obviously, the solution isn’t to suddenly allow spectators to gather inside the stadium in support of the national team. However, the government could perhaps explore the possibility of having fully vaccinated persons who would like to attend the matches be given permission to do so. Another possibility could also be to have interested supporters present a negative COVID-19 result up to three days prior to the scheduled home fixture in order for them to be granted access inside the National Stadium.
Allowing fans back into the stadium will solve many problems. Choosing to utilize proper measures to ensure that this happens safely is extremely important if the country wants to witness another World Cup Finals appearance. Perhaps, the government does not view this feat as a vital target. If that is true, then that highlights the foundation of the issues surrounding the football program in Jamaica.