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  • Tuesday, March 10, 1998

    Jamaica looking for more Brits

    By RAF CASERT -- The Associated Press
     PARIS (AP) -- The Reggae Boyz have surprised a lot of people already. But Jamaica's coach Rene Simoes has a few more tricks, and a few more mystery players, up his sleeve in a bid to go as far as possible in the World Cup.
     Much has been made of the reliance on British-born players with Jamaican parentage, which has been instrumental in turning Jamaica's qualifying campaign around and earning it the first Caribbean World Cup berth in two decades.
     Now, Simoes wants more.
     Four British-born players were used in the World Cup qualifying campaign and two more were added during last month's Gold Cup. Simoes now plans to go to Britain to talk to more eager candidates. On March 25, Jamaica plays Wales in a friendly.
     "Maybe I can go for 10 overall," he said during the two-day World Cup workshop that ended Tuesday.
     He said the federation has been inundated with requests from players with a Jamaican heritage to get a late ticket to the World Cup. He refused to give names, citing confidentiality requested by the applicants.
     Any talented newcomer is bound to kick a Jamaican off the team and the last thing Simoes wants is a row on the squad.
     "I don't want to upset the chemistry. If it works well, we can continue to do so. If it breaks the chemistry, I'll send them back," he said.
     He said he will always consult the current core of players before making a decision on an addition and said that jealousy could start to play a role. "After all, they're only human beings," he said.
     After a bad start to the qualifying campaign, Simoes brought in four "passport" Jamaicans from the English leagues -- forwards Deon Burton of Derby County, Paul Hall of Portsmouth and Robbie Earle of Wimbledon and midfielder Fitzroy Simpson of Portsmouth.
     After a 6-0 loss to Mexico and a 3-1 defeat by Costa Rica, the team rebounded soundly with home wins over El Salvador, Canada and Costa Rica to put themselves in line for a spot in the finals. A draw against Mexico in the last game was enough.
     But the Brazilian Simoes said a change in mentality was just as important.
     "It used to be that winning or losing meant nothing. There was no money, no prestige, no future," Simoes said, reinforcing the Reggae Boyz' reputation as freewheeling and fun-loving.
     Now, the day that Jamaica qualified has been named a national holiday and each member of the team was offered a free plot of land for a home.
     Simoes took charge in October 1994 and has helped transform the team into a regional top contender by introducing a sense of professionalism.
     The national team members are now professionals, in sharp contrast with a few years ago, when some players were fired from their job for spending too much time with the national squad.
     "Now they have a future in soccer," Simoes said.

    NEXT ROUNDS: Round of 16 || Quarter-finals || Semi-finals
    GROUP A: Brazil, Morocco, Norway, Scotland
    GROUP B: Austria, Cameroon, Chile, Italy
    GROUP C: Denmark, France, Saudi Arabia, South Africa
    GROUP D: Bulgaria, Nigeria, Paraguay, Spain
    GROUP E: Belgium, Holland, Mexico, South Korea
    GROUP F: Germany, Iran, United States, Yugoslavia
    GROUP G: Colombia, England, Romania, Tunisia
    GROUP H: Argentina, Croatia, Jamaica, Japan

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