By Gregory Bryce
Rumours have become a fundamental aspect of modern football. Particularly with new technology being created year after year, it becomes easier to spread and pass on rumours across the world. Point in mind: take the recent abrupt sacking of Barcelona’s manager, Quique Setién. Barcelona’s disaster-class against Bayern Munich, where they lost 8-2 in the quarterfinals, had just ended before it was circulated that the Spaniard was to be sacked effective immediately.
So yes, rumours are abundant in the football world and even the most absurd can carry a fair amount of legitimacy, but imagine my surprise when the Mirror – a UK-based newsletter – reported that veteran Sven-Goran Eriksson was to become the new head coach and technical director of the Reggae Boyz.
Now, obviously, there is a glaring concern with this report. After all, how is Eriksson expected to fill a vacancy that doesn’t exist? Theodore Whitmore is still the head coach of the national team and that is yet to change, so where did the Mirror cook up such a rumour? Are there internal tensions between the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and Whitmore that the public is unaware of?
The short answer, no.
Following the Mirror’s report, the JFF was quick to dismiss the rumour with a statement made on their Instagram page that read, “The Jamaica Football Federation is aware of a report in the Mirror newspaper in the UK stating amongst other things that Sven-Goran Eriksson is set to take up a coaching position as well as the position of Technical Director at the Jamaica Football Federation. The JFF wishes to categorically deny this report. We wish also to state that the current National Head Coach Theodore Whitmore has not tendered a resignation and therefore there is no vacant position to be filled.”
So, with all said and done, Whitmore will remain the head coach for the foreseeable future. But as I continued to read through the various comments left by the Jamaican people under the JFF’s post, this is apparently not the popular decision.
Jamaica is set to face Mexico first in our qualifying campaign for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, and the seemingly popular opinion is that Whitmore, who has already failed to qualify for the World Cup before, is not the man suited to lead the team forward. Eriksson seems to be the more preferred option, and there is credence to the opinion.
Comparing the two coaches at first glance, it is clear that Eriksson possesses the more impressive managerial resume. The Swedish coach has been at the helm of many distinguished clubs, including the likes of Manchester City, Leicester City, Lazio, Roma and international teams such as England and Ivory Coast. During this time, Eriksson has won multiple titles including the Serie A, Copa Italia, UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup.
Whitmore, however, became a manager in 2006 as a player/coach for Seba United. It remains the only club to date that Whitmore has been in charge of, though he boasts four separate stints as the head coach of the national set up. He is the only Jamaican to win the Caribbean Cup both as a player and a manager and has led the Jamaica team to the finals and semi-finals of the 2017 and 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup respectively.
It is clear that Eriksson is the more experienced of the two having been coaching for 43 years – keep in mind, Whitmore is 48 years old. So can a Jamaican team, which seems ripe for success, benefit from the guidance of such an acclaimed and veteran Eriksson?
According to the Mirror, yes, they can – and Eriksson himself seems keen on the job, having been quoted as saying, “I have received questions about Jamaica via an intermediary. It is an exciting national team and a country when it is warm and comfortable to live. It is difficult to say anything else until something becomes more concrete.”
So, the situation is that the JFF has denied the rumours of Eriksson taking over as manager for the Reggae Boyz and seems to be placing their trust in Whitmore while Eriksson – reportedly – has been contacted through intermediaries and is open to the idea of working within the Jamaican setup.
So, should the JFF bring on board the more experienced and travelled coach in the shape of Eriksson? Or is their trust in the more familiar face of Whitmore justified?
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
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