The Reggae Boyz Refuse to Practice Before Gold Cup Game
Jamaica's Reggae Boyz aren't practicing because they want more money. But they'll only get more money if they play better.
Ignore the fact that Costa Rica sits at an exalted 14th place while Jamaica hangs low at 65th on the Euro-and-South American-centric FIFA rankings—tonight's Gold Cup matchup between the two North American teams will be imbalanced for several reasons.
Due to a strike over wages, Jamaica's national team, affectionately known as the Reggae Boyz, refused to attend Monday's practice session at the StubHub center in Carson, CA. Even though they probably needed it.
"We cannot afford to hang our hats where we cannot reach it," Jamaican Football Federation president "Captain" Horace Burrell said about the national team's budget. He also stated that the team was lucky it didn't get further sanctions, which would have "affected football development in Jamaica for years to come," but acknowledged the tough postion the players were in.
"Of course the players are deserving of a lot more than we can offer... so all of this is a process of negotiations and we have to respect the will and requests of the players, but at the same time it does not mean we will be able to fulfill all requests from players," he told Jamaican journalists after lengthy meetings with players at the Ayres Hotel on Monday.
Aside from a couple of soccer games, the Reggae Boyz don't really have much to lose, so they used the only leverage they've got.
Jamaica, who only placed twice in the Gold Cup (3rd in 1993 and 4th in 1998) throughout their eight appearances, are simply arguing for more money to play in the Gold Cup in the first place. This seems reasonable, given the fact that the bigger paychecks of upwards of $1 million are doled out to the higher ranking teams, whereas 9th-12th place teams get a paltry $100,000.
That's not even mentioning the fact that South American soccer federation's CONMEBOL is still struggling to pay out its winners for the Copa América in the wake of FIFA investigations. (So far, CONCACAF has promised it will make good on its financial promises.)
While some semblance of a detente was reached, and the players will participate in the game tonight, the no-practice-until-we're-paid strike tactics pitted against no-pay-unless-you're-good realities have put Burrell and the Reggae Boyz into a real Catch 22.