Sport

Mariappa steadfast in desire to represent Boyz

BY IAN BURNETT
Sport Editor

Thursday, September 06, 2018

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EDISON, New Jersey — Adrian Mariappa is as committed to Jamaica's football today as he was when he first donned the national colours against Guyana in an i nternational f riendly six years ago.

The 31-year-old Watford Football Club defender is currently among a 22-man Jamaican squad preparing for this Sunday's Concacaf Nations League opener against the Cayman Islands inside the National Stadium beginning at 7:00 pm, having been recalled by head coach Theodore Whitmore.

But before parading his skills in front of Jamaica spectators on Sunday, he and his Reggae Boyz teammates are scheduled to face South America's Ecuador in a training match inside Red Bull Arena tomorrow, also at 7:00 pm.

A regular starter under his former coach, German Winfried Schaefer, Mariappa and his England-based colleagues were overlooked for the past two years, as the new technical staff shifted its focus to more home-grown talent. Mariappa last represented Jamaica in a 0-3 loss to Uruguay on June 14, 2016.

Two years older and wiser, but with the same desire to do well for Jamaica, Mariappa has taken the snub in strides.

“It is just one of them things. This is football and that's how it is. There are so many changes and I'm old enough to know how football works, so I just always do my work to the best of my ability and that's something that I've never strayed away from. so obviously, being back now I just want to give everything that I can,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

And even during those two dark years of being in the international football wilderness, he never lost hope.

“No, not really, if I'm honest. I've always thought that I've done a decent job whenever I did play, and I know I've been playing well for my club and that will come with it as well.”

But now he just wants to enjoy the moment and continue to do the best he can for Jamaica and help the youngsters grow in the sport.

“It's been good, business as usual, as they say. Obviously, we had a training session today (Tuesday) and the boys look good and I'm just looking to get back out on the pitch.”

Capped 42 times with one goal, the 5'11” solid defender, who plays either as a centre back or as a wing back, is eagerly anticipating Sunday's game in the new Concacaf Nations League.

“Every game is a tough game and hopefully we prepare for each game the same way, and we will give the Cayman Islands the respect they deserve and prepare in the right way because we know it will be a tough game. but I'm just looking forward to putting the jersey on again.”

Mariappa and his 2015 teammates shocked Concacaf when they eliminated hosts the United States on their way to the Gold Cup final against Mexico. They would eventually lose 1-3, but they served notice that the Reggae Boyz were not to be taken lightly.

And in the very next cycle last year, under coach Whitmore and a homegrown pool of players, the Reggae Boyz stunned the region yet again by going all the way to the final, losing 1-2 to the United States, but eliminating the other superpower, Mexico, 1-0 in the semi-finals.

Mariappa said he was ecstatic for the boys and was hoping they would have gone one better than his side did.

“Obviously it was brilliant and I was hoping that the boys could go that one step further, but it just wasn't to be. but we had another really good campaign and I was watching and supporting the boys from afar,” he explained.

Now in his 14th season as a professional, Mariappa, who started his career at Watford, but also represented Crystal Palace and Reading in the English Premier League, before returning to Watford, said that he took his time away from the Jamaican set-up to share with his family.

“I spoke to Roy (Simpson, team manager) and obviously he was speaking to coach Whitmore. I knew that he (Whitmore) wanted me to come back into the squad and it's good being back. I was using the international breaks for some family time to actually speak to my family and make sure they were good with me being away from home each break for quite a long period of time and they are very supportive,” he admitted.

And regarding his role in the team now as an elder, he said: “I will continue to go about my business as I always have, and that's trying to be professional on the pitch and off the pitch. For any of the boys, if I can give them some advice, I will do. but apart from that, the best way of leading is to lead by example and setting good examples, and that is the best thing to do.”

Meanwhile, the man who had the option of also representing Fiji, the birth country of his father, said he's enjoying his game at the moment, even if he's not seeing enough playing time in a Watford side, which started the current season unbeaten with four wins from as many starts, including Sunday's 2-1 result against Tottenham Hotspur, the recent 3-0 victors over Manchester United.

“It's the perfect start and it is something that doesn't happen very often, but everyone's got their feet firmly on the ground. We know it's only four games, but I think it's the manner in which we have been playing; we are fit and strong and everyone's giving everything to each other, and I think that will stand us in good stead for the rest of the season.

“Last year I didn't play in the first six or seven games and then I got playing a lot, so it's only four games and I've been there or thereabouts, on the bench and it's all about waiting for your opportunity and when it does come to take it and that's what I'm waiting for at the moment.

“Yeah, very happy (with football at the moment). obviously I want to be playing every week but, like I said, the boys have been doing terrific and they deserve to be playing at the moment.”

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