March 5th, 2011
SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Jamaica's Under-20 Reggae Boyz pose for pictures after their first training session at the Traffic Academy here yesterday. Joining in the photo moment are coaches Andrew Edwards (left), Brazilians Joao Brigatti (centre), Walter Gama (2nd right) and Luciano Gama (right). (Photo: Livingston Scott)
SAO PAULO, Brazil Jamaica’s Under-20 football squad wasted no time in getting down to business when they arrived here yesterday for their three-week training stint at the Traffic Academy.
Though the young Reggae Boyz endured a nine-hour flight from Miami to get to the sprawling South American country of Brazil, they showed little hint of jet-lag or fatigue.
Shortly after arriving at the Traffic Academy, the very training facility that hosted their Under-17 siblings in December on the first leg of a six-week tour, the Under-20s were ordered to the field for their first work-out even as the rains came.
They were taken through a one-hour session under the gaze of Brazilian Professor Walter Gama, son Luciano and Jamaican coach Andrew Edwards.
Team doctor, Carlton Fraser, said ideally the players should have rested for the day for recuperation, but noted that after watching them go through the one-hour “mild work-out”, he and the Gamas were surprised at the players’ energy, enthusiasm and overall response.
However, Dr Fraser warned that he will be monitoring them closely as crossing two time zones on about 10 hours of flight with very little rest, the players’ bodies will be “subjected to wear and tear” and caution in this kind of situation has to be the name of the game.
“When you are thinking about the performance of athletes, you have to know what is detrimental to them… at first I thought them to be a bit stressed, but since we landed I have started our supplement programme and I have encouraged them to rehydrate,” noted Dr Fraser, a regular with the national football programme.
“But when they decided that they were going to have a session at 4:30 pm (2:30 pm Jamaica time), I was looking at sleep deprivation plus other duress, so I was very impressed by their energy although the session wasn’t intensified,” he said.
Following a technical meeting yesterday afternoon, it was confirmed that the team will play six matches, although dates are yet to be confirmed.
The Under-20s, aiming to replicate the success of the Under-17 team which booked their spot to their age-group World Cup in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Montego Bay last week, will train mornings and evenings as they fine-tune for their qualifying championship in Guatemala from March 28 to April 10.
It was disclosed that two former Brazilian players — Thiago and Ambroso — will assist with the preparation of the Jamaicans who will seek to be the second Under-20 team to a World Cup following the success of the Argentina 2001 group.
Thiago, the Observer was told, will focus on the defensive aspect, while Ambroso will assist with the offensive part of the game. At the end of each day, the Boyz will go into a technical meeting with the coaches to be evaluated individually.
Also, an award will be presented to the most improved player at the camp by the coaching staff.
Although having his first session with the team, Walter Gama said that he is familiar with some of the players, who played for the Under-17s two years ago in Trinidad. Though he conceded it was too early to evaluate the players, he said his expectations are high.
“They gave me a good impression and I have good expectation of the possibility to qualify for the World Cup,” he said.
Meanwhile, coach Edwards, who have spearheaded the preparation of the team up to this point after Wendell Downswell relinquished control to concentrate on the Under-17s, said he expects more from the players in the coming days after they are properly rested.
“We are here and the work begins… we just want to get them acclimatised and get the legs moving and the jet-lag out,” he argued.
He also declared that apart from trying to improve the team’s technical and tactical efficiency, the psychological aspect of the training is going to be crucial going to Guatemala and he’s hoping for some real improvements there.
“Our physical preparation will also be key, because going into a tournament where the games come thick and fast, you will need to have sustainable fitness so you can maintain a high level of performance through the tournament,” he reasoned.
Edwards said he was encouraged by the enthusiasm of the players so early in the stint.
“Once we landed in Brazil, one could see and hear the excitement… especially some of the senior players, whose aim it is to earn a living from football. They seemed a lot more enthused and excited just being here,” he said.
Team captain Sergio Campbell said he did not mind starting training the same day of their arrival as they only have limited time available.
“The Under-17s qualified for the World Cup and this was the same facility they used, so we intend to make the best use of it,” he said.
After the three weeks in Brazil, the players will fly straight to Guatemala for the 12-team CONCACAF Under-20 Championship, which will qualify four teams to the Colombia Youth World Cup from July 29 to August 20.
Jamaica will compete in Group A of the CONCACAF qualifying play-offs with hosts Guatemala and Honduras.
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