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SET FOR CHANGE: Jamaica’s footballers

JAMAICA’S FRIENDLY against World Cup finalists France will see a rebirth of the game on the Caribbean island.

The Reggae Boyz take on Les Bleus on June 8 at the Stade Pierre Maury in Lille, which match organiser Winston Clarke is hoping will spur an overhaul of Jamaican football.

Clarke told the Voice of Sport: “This game will be like a rebirth of Jamaican football. It will be about where we’ve been and effectively where we are going over the next few years.

“There will be new faces coming into the squad, probably changes in coaching strategies too.”

Clarke was at pains to point out that both Jamaica and Japan made their World Cup finals debuts together at France in 1998, with the Boyz storming to a 2-1 win in Lyon.

But in terms of progress, the Asian team has left their Caribbean rivals behind.

Clarke added: “Japan have accelerated away and qualified for every World Cup since while Jamaica has never qualified again. What needs to happen is a clear overhaul of Jamaican football.

“The majority of their players (Japan) are now playing in the best five leagues in the world; years ago they were mostly home-based.

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“On the other hand, Jamaica has Ricardo Gardner as the sole flasgship Premier League player and no one else. There is something not quite right. Jamaica needs to look at how it produces its players, how they are developed.

According to Clarke: “The recruitment of players could also be better. Jamaica has been too slow to recruit players that are in the English leagues; by the time Jamaica has reacted, England has them!”

The proactive football match organiser was also keen to talk up the experience of two former players who could bring so much to Jamaican football.

“Michael Johnson (ex Birmingham and Derby) is a guy, with his experience, that could be technical director for Jamaica.

“You’ve also got Ricky Hill (ex Luton) coaching at Tampa Bay, who for me should be the Jamaica national team coach with his pedigree. There’s a whole host of things that has to be looked at.”

Clarke’s calls come after the Reggae Boyz failed to win a game and ended last in the CONCACAF World Cup final stage last year.

However, the match against France has already lit the imagination of Jamaican supporters. Over 20 coaches are set to descend on Lille while thousands are set to make the journey via car and Eurostar.

Big name DJs are being targeted to perform in an anticipated "Jamaica Village" in Lille.

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