Football – History

Records available indicate that football was introduced in Jamaica towards the end of the 19th century, but 1893 is listed as the year Jamaica formed its first football club.

Jamaica’s made its first international appearance against Caribbean neighbours Haiti in 1925 for a three-game series. Jamaica won all three games by 1-0, 2-1 and 3-0 margins.

The following year Jamaica hosted their Haitians counterparts at Sabina Park and won 6-0. The Haitians defeated Jamaica for the first time in 1932 with a 4-1 home win in Port-au-Prince.

Between 1925 and when Jamaica gained independence in 1962, Jamaica had regular games with Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Cuba and clubs like Racing and Violette from Haiti, Corinthians of Britain, the Tigers from Argentina, and even a series of matches with a Caribbean All Stars team in 1952.

Those friendly international games were the start of Jamaica’s football quest with most of the home matches being played at Sabina Park. Many clubs were established during that time including Kensington, Melbourne, Kingston, Lucas and St. George’s Old Boys, thus providing the talent Jamaica needed at the time.

Under the leadership of Brazilian coach Jorge Penna in 1965, Jamaica made its first attempt at World Cup qualifying. This was for the 1966 World Cup finals in England.

Jamaica made it to the final group of three, which included Costa Rica and Mexico. The winner of the group would represent the CONCACAF region at the FIFA World Cup.

But Jamaica lost at home to Mexico 3-2 and in the return leg in Mexico City under high altitude they were crushed 8-0. Jamaica lost 7-0 to Costa Rica in their first encounter and had a 1-1 tie when they played at home.

In 1968 coach George Hamilton took leadership as Jamaica made an attempt to qualify for the 1970 World Cup Finals in Mexico. Jamaica had only a few remaining players from the previous World Cup team and had to rebuild because most of the players had retired or migrated to North America and England.

Jamaica lost all of their qualifying games in that year.

The country did not participate in the qualifiers for the 1974 World Cup because 17 players on the team were suspended for poor behaviour on a tour to Bermuda.

And for the 1982 World Cup in Spain Jamaica did not participate in the qualifiers because of financial problems.  The country also did not take part in the 1986 World Cup because of suspension for affiliation fees that were due to FIFA.

Football Fights On

Jamaica made history on November 16, 1997 by becoming the first English speaking country from the Caribbean to ever qualify for a FIFA World Cup.

On that day, the senior Reggae Boyz, as the team is nicknamed, galvanized a troubled nation by holding mighty Mexico to a 0-0 draw at the National Stadium in Kingston to qualify for the 1998 World Cup finals in France.

Jamaicans partied heartily after that historic draw as the government declared a public holiday the day after the match.

Jamaica achieved the historic feat under the guidance of Brazilian Professor Rene Simoes, who was hired as Technical Director by Jamaica Football Federation’s president, Captain Horace Burrell in 1994.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) is the official football organization in the country.

Before qualifying for the World Cup finals the Reggae Boyz received ‘Best Mover’ award by FIFA in 1996. The team moved from an all-time low of 95 in 1994 on FIFA’s world rankings to 27 after its historic appearance at the 1998 World Cup in France.

The team won only one of its three games in France, a 2-1 victory against Japan, and failed to progress to the knockout stages.

Since then, however, Jamaica have failed to make an impression and subsequently missed out on the next three World Cups.

Before the historic qualification, Jamaica had entered five previous senior World Cup qualifiers – 1966, 1970, 1978, 1990 and 1994.

The senior team has developed into a powerhouse in the Caribbean winning the Caribbean Cup five times – 1991, 1998, 2005, 2008 and 2010. They finished second twice and emerged third twice.

Jamaica is now the top team in the Caribbean Football Union (CFU), and have led the CFU rankings ever since it captured the Caribbean Cup back in December. They are now 55 in the FIFA rankings.

Since the first edition of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 1991, Jamaica have qualified for that tournament eight times. The country’s best performance at the Gold Cup came in 1993 with a joint third place finish.

The country’s Under-17 and Under-20 teams have also created history by qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in their age groups.

The Under-17 team achieved the feat twice, firstly by qualifying for the FIFA Youth World Cup in 1999 in New Zealand and this summer’s tournament in Mexico, thus snapping a 10-year spell from a global football final.

The Under-20 team qualified for the Argentina FIFA World Cup back in 2001.

At the Pan Am Games level, the young Reggae Boyz (Under 20) became the first national outfit to win a team medal in the Games history, after losing 1-2 to Ecuador in the gold medal match to claim the silver at the 2007 games played in Brazil.