Anderson admits cock-ups, says Boyz learnt valuable lessons from stormy trip to Saudi Arabia

Sport Editor

Sunday, November 22, 2020

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For veteran football administrator Raymond Anderson, the Reggae Boyz's recent tour of Saudi Arabia was filled with challenges, repeated distractions and other issues amid the COVID-19 realities.

But there were lessons to learn and implement going forward in this new norm if the football programme is to succeed. And Anderson was equally lavish of his praise for the Boyz, who rebounded from their first game loss to defeat the hosts in the second of their two-game friendly international series under extremely trying circumstances.

“For me the tour from the beginning was challenging because of the COVID-19 protocols, but we are here now, and we know we are concerned about some of our colleagues who have been left behind. But apart from that, there is a lot of experience that was gathered from the tour, from players, management and technical staff,” summarised Anderson.

“It showed us the new norm that we will have to adhere to if we are really serious about the Gold Cup and the World Cup qualifiers, and, of course, some other practice games,” added Anderson, the head of the delegation for the tour.

Jamaica Football Federation senior vice-president spared no punches in what he considered a candid review of the tour with Jamaica Observer.

“What I take from this is that we can't leave anything to chance. We have to manage the thing like a team; cross all the t's and dot all the i's before we leave, because going there we didn't know what to anticipate; who would have a positive result because nobody can control it from that end, so with that in mind we learnt a lot from it.

“For the game itself, you could see the level of maturity from the players, and, of course, the coaching staff with calm heads though having problems. When you looked at the entire delegation, we had little issues, but all of them…as I said to you at the early part where there was the idea that people might not play and all of that, that took care of itself and the rest is history.”

Early on reports emerged that players and the federation hierarchy were in a public dispute over remuneration and that there were threats of a boycott. At the time Anderson rubbished such an idea in an interview with the Observer.

“Whatever happened we dealt with it as I told you it would have been dealt with by the president [Mike Ricketts].”

But Anderson, also an executive of the Jamaica Olympic Association, was quick to point out that it can't all be talk and no action from hereon in.

“Now for us going forward, what we learnt from here we can't just lock it up in a file and put it away. We have to practise the experience that we gathered.

“There were other little challenges that we know we can deal with in house…so my takeaway from this is to pass on what I know to whomsoever will be head of delegation going forward. For them, it will be a big duty because nothing can be left to chance or else you are going to have problems,” said Anderson.

Apart from the public spat over remuneration, there were also the distractions of players arriving late due to disagreements over travel arrangements, which ultimately led to the team's reduced time on the practice pitch and leaving the Boyz with just a solitary training session on the eve of the first match.

“As I said, the administrative side needs to look again and don't leave anything to chance. I think definitely there wasn't enough of a thought process in some of it. For example, six airports to reach to Saudi Arabia…maybe it is because I am a person who deals with logistics that's why I know that there should be something else added to that, but saying all of that, all of us as executives have to take the blame.

“I've already had a discussion with the president, Vice-President Bruce Gaynor and gen-sec [Dalton Wint] and we agree that we are not going to leave it [as it].

“We are not going to leave out two of the most integral parts of it and we want to make sure that everybody knows that. The coach and the manager will sit with us and whereever we are going it must be like clockwork because we have the experience, we don't have to look anywhere else to find it because we have been doing this over and over again.

“So, moving forward we will correct that,” Anderson said with an air of confidence.

And while acknowledging the debilitating effects of the distractions, as a whole, the former St Mary Football Association president believes that the mental trauma associated with the PCR COVID-19 tests on Monday (November 16) was probably more challenging than anything the Saudi Arabian team could have thrown at them on the pitch.

“That's an experience and a half,” said Anderson. “When I looked outside in the corridor, everybody was just sitting and waiting and that goes for me also. We were told that by midnight we would have had the results, but when it reached 2:00 am, 3:00 am and I could tell you every hour going down to 10:00 am when I still didn't get the results, so I can imagine the players going into a game that evening and mentally they didn't sleep.

“That is why I said the players put everything they had inside of them in the last game because they didn't sleep, and they went out there and represented well. It was something else, and I will never forget that day,” Anderson concluded.

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