Mexico scored two goals in the final 10 minutes to revive their stuttering 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-1 win over 10-man Jamaica in Kingston on Thursday.

El Tri, who had lost their past two qualifiers against the United States and Canada, were staring down the barrel of a third straight loss when trailing 1-0 with 10 minutes left before their late rally.

Henry Martin tapped home to equalise in the 81st minute, with Carlos Vega netting a dramatic winner two minutes later to ease the pressure on head coach Gerardo Martino.

Preston North End midfielder Daniel Johnson had fired in a left-foot strike to put the Reggae Boyz ahead in the 51st minute after they had been reduced to 10 men prior to half-time when Damion Lowe was sent off after VAR review – introduced to CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for the first time – for a studs-up challenge.

El Tri, who were without the injured Raul Jimenez and suspended Hirving Lozano, had early chances with Carlos Rodriguez and Vega both testing Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake in the first half.

The win means Mexico move up to 17 points from nine qualifiers, temporarily moving above Canada – who play Honduras later on Thursday - into second spot in CONCACAF qualifying, one point behind USA who edged El Salvador 1-0. The result leaves Jamaica off the pace, with only one win and seven points from nine games.

When you’ve been in broadcasting as long as Lance Whittaker has, nothing much comes as a surprise. Over a career that has spanned more than three decades, the Sportsmax Zone anchor has pretty much been there and done that.

Well, that was until last week, Friday, January 21, when he was presented with the prestigious RJRGleaner Foundation’s Chairman’s Award for 35 years of excellence in broadcasting at the local, regional and international levels.

“Complete shock! Was not expecting this at all,” remarked the unassuming but highly respected broadcaster, who for the last 12 years has been a Vice-President/Executive Producer at SportsMax Ltd, the Caribbean’s first all-sports cable channel.

“Remember, no media practitioner had ever won this award before so I was not even considering that I was a candidate. More than a week later, after being notified, I am still actually trying to assess how I feel. Immense pride, for sure, and really honoured that the RJRGleaner Sports Foundation has considered my body of work worthy. It means a lot to me and I feel the decades of hard work is appreciated.”

Those decades of hard work began back in June 1984 at Radio Jamaica where Whittaker spent the first 11 years of his superlative career. He started out reading the mid-day sports reports and subsequently hosted Sports Call on Wednesday nights.

Lance eventually rose through the ranks to be Assistant Programme Director – Sports. He had also begun to establish himself as a world-class commentator covering Pan Am Games in 1987 and 1991, the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona and the 1994 Commonwealth Games.

By 1995, he was ready to move on to greater challenges.

“I took a job offer at the Caribbean News Agency in (CANA) in March 1995 as CANA Sports Coordinator in Barbados where I established a daily radio sportscast and supervised the sports output in the CANA Wire Service which was the regional affiliate of Reuters International News Agency, transmitting hundreds of Caribbean sports stories monthly, covering the entire region – from Bermuda in the north through to Guyana in the south,” he said with pride.

“Our radio coverage output during this period also included the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and several CARIFTA Games. CANA also established CricketPlus, CANA’s high-quality radio coverage of international cricket led by esteemed commentators Fazeer Mohammed, Andrew Mason, Simon Crosskill and Reds Pereira.”

CANA and the Caribbean Broadcasting Union (CBU) eventually merged in 2000 to become the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) for which Whittaker was Director of Sports until his resignation in March 2010.

“At CMC, I continued to lead our wire service output and television was added to my portfolio, as we established a daily television news,” he recalled.

“I presented our 15-minute sports news Monday to Friday evenings after our team sourced stories from our partners throughout the day. During that period, I also added three more Olympics to my log – Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008.”

At SportsMax, he was mandated to improve the company’s standing as a regional and international television sports broadcaster and in July 2011, a SportsMax dream was realized, the first ever daily sports talk show in Caribbean television.

“I was lead presenter in the early years of SportsMax Zone and I am still on the show daily. We have tried to fashion the show – through the news stories and discussion topics – to ensure engaging topics for the viewers,” he said.

“Major coverage events for me so far at SportsMax include the 2012 London Olympics and Tokyo 2020 Olympics. In recent years, I have also been a part of increased live coverage of events on SportsMax, including local premier league, school sports and various international events.”

His body of work speaks for itself and is the result of years of hard work, dedication and commitment to excellence, the hallmarks of Whittaker’s sterling career.

“I am not sure if there is a secret to maintaining a high standard for a long time. It boils down to really hard work and dedication,” he said.

“Punctuality, preparedness and being thorough have always been watchwords for me in this job and in the media, these are critical to success. Also, my school motto at Wolmer’s ‘Age Quod Agis’ is, 'Whatever you do, do it to the best of your ability.

“I love what I do. I have been playing sports competitively and loving sports from before my teenage years and a lot of what I do on the job hardly feels like work. I fell in love with radio as a teenager and though I did not realize it then, it clearly triggered my passion for a career in broadcast media.”

Of course, with so many events covered, it might be surprising to hear that there isn’t any one thing that comes first to mind as most memorable; perhaps because there have been so many.

“There are so many memorable moments and some may find it surprising that my first interactions with broadcasters, who I found massively inspirational, would be very high on that list,” he said.

“I cannot explain in words how moved and star-struck I felt the first time I met Chris Armond, whose horse racing commentaries I would have studied and impersonated as a teenager at Wolmer’s, much to my mother’s consternation because she was sure I took horse racing commentary more seriously than my school work!

“Also, the first time I interviewed the great Tony Cozier live in the RJR studio on Sports Call. Another ‘star-struck’ moment. I was completely in awe of this cricket commentator, revered globally and to me the world’s best, and I swear, I was so nervous I struggled to conduct a proper interview.

“Those aside, I would list getting a signed picture and letter from sprint great Merlene Ottey thanking me for what she thought was my “classic” commentary of her 1993 IAAF World Championship 200-metre gold medal run in Stuttgart, her first global title after 13 years of trying; Usain Bolt’s stunning 9.69 world record 100-metre win at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and my commentary as he approached the finish, arms outstretched and celebrating, that “Usain Bolt makes it look easy” was not what I wanted to say, I stayed focused on my verbal delivery but trust me, the words in my mind were not fit for airplay! Not sure what would rank as a crowning moment but this Chairman’s Award certainly hit a spot. Never expected this at all.”

So what does one do for an encore after 35 years of excellence?

“Not much of a planner, so I am not sure,” he said.

“I will be 60 years old in September and taking things day by day. Getting some pressure/encouragement from some quarters to write a book on my adventures in almost 38 years of broadcasting and I am still trying to wrap my brain around that.”

Jamaica Reggae Boy interim head coach, Paul Hall, was in a bullish mood ahead of Thursday’s crucial World Cup qualifiers against Mexico at the National Stadium.

The match will be the second fixture but the first World Cup qualifier for Hall, who stepped in to replaced Theodore Whitmore in December of last year.  With the team adrift in sixth place and 7 points behind the qualifying positions, it seems safe to say only a win will do for the Reggae Boyz against a typically dangerous opponent.

Hall is aware of the challenge at hand but feels confident the team can find a way to pull off the crucial result.

"We got to make sure we stay focussed and motivated with the task at hand and if we can do that and get into the game and find our rhythm and be expressive with our play then we will be ok," Hall said.

“They won’t want to lose they are probably going to have the same attitude as ourselves, so I feel it will be a tight affair,” he added.

“We will respect the Mexicans and what they bring and I would ask my team to make sure that Mexico respects what we bring, with our energy, with our rhythm, and with our desire,” he added.

The Mexicans, who will be without key players Hirving Lozano and Raul Jiminez, are currently third in the standings, on 14, the same number of points as Panama.  In the reverse fixture, the Mexicans scored late to win 2-1.  The Jamaicans will play Panama three days later before hosting Costa Rica.  All teams are directly above them in the table.  

 

Aston Villa forward Leon Bailey is closing in on a return to the first team, having spent over a month on the sidelines due to injury.

The Jamaica international was forced to leave the field before halftime after pulling up against Manchester City early in December.

The injury was similar to one the player had suffered against Everton in September when he was also sidelined for several weeks.  Having missed out on the Jamaica Reggae Boyz three matches for the upcoming international window, Aston Villa coach Steven Gerrard believes the period will provide the player with plenty of time to slowly ease himself back into action.

“Leon is not too far away and we are hoping to have him back in the next two weeks.

“The (winter) break will benefit Leon as he won’t miss many more games,” Gerrard said.

“Hopefully in two weeks’ time he is ready to train with the group,” he added.

The 24-year-old who moved from Bayer Leverkusen for an estimated £25million last summer has had a stop-start beginning to life at Villa Park but has shown plenty of promise whenever he has managed to get time on the pitch.  He has scored once in 9 appearances.

Jamaican Olympic sprinter TyQuendo Tracey has signed a deal to be a brand ambassador for Lifespan Spring Water, a statement from his publicist said.

Reggae Boyz head coach Paul Hall has named an experienced squad for his squad for the next three FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica, respectively.

Hall, who replaced Theodore Whitmore on an interim basis, after the latter was relieved of his duties late last year, did not see it fit to select any outfield players currently participating in the Jamaica Premier League. Leon Bailey misses out once again as he is not fully recovered from a thigh injury that has seen him miss 11 of Aston Villa's Premier League matches this season. Shamar Nicholson declined his invitation claiming he wants to spend the time settling into his new club Spartak Moscow.

However, Hall is not short of striking options as he has called up West Ham’s Michail Antonio, Queens Park Rangers’ Andre Gray, Philadelphia Union’s Cory Burke, FC Toulouse’s Junior Flemmings, Fulham’s Bobby Reid, and Santos de Guapiles’ Javon East.

In midfield, Miami FC’s Devon Williams and Lamar Walker, Blackpool FC’s Kevin Stewart, Derby County’s Ravel Morrison, Hartford Athletic’s Peter-Lee Vassell and Preston North End’s Daniel Johnson got the nod for the crucial matches.

In defence, Hall will choose from the likes of Reading FC’s Liam Moore, Macarthur FC’s Adian Mariappa, recent Inter Miami signee Damion Lowe, Toronto FC’s Kemar Lawrence, Morecambe FC’s Gregory Leigh, Vancouver Whitecap’s Javain Brown and FC Cincinnati’s Alvas Powell.

Andre Blake of Philadelphia Union, Dwayne Miller of Eskilstuna City and Amal Knight of Harbour View FC make up the goalkeeper pool.

Jamaica will open the coming window against Mexico at the National Stadium in Kingston on January 27 before travelling to Panama for their next match on January 30. The penultimate round of qualifiers concludes with Jamaica hosting Costa Rica at the National Stadium on February 2.

It is an open secret that the present administration of the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) is creating "heat waves" in winter sports as it fulfils one of its mandates of growing and strengthening Jamaica's representation in the Winter Olympic Games with a competitive edge.

Although without a medal for the last eight winter games, JOA President, Christopher Samuda, is still confident that "with the robust development programme on which the JOA has embarked with a view to broadening the menu of sports and deepening representation particularly among the next generation of youth, podium success is in the foreseeable future."

The expansive initiatives of the local governing body for winter sports demonstrate a commitment that has been ongoing. Since 2018, guided by its mantra "Sport for All, and All for Sport" which is also its rallying cry for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games and the 2026 Milano Cortina Winter Games, the JOA has invested significantly in the sport of bobsled in motivating the dreams and aspirations of Jamaica's athletes in achieving a historic top of the podium finishing.

An elated JOA Secretary-General and CEO, Ryan Foster, stated that "the JOA is extremely pleased with the results having invested over $12,000,000.00 since 2018 in our bobsled athletes in assisting them in their travel, training camps and accommodation and in facilitating their qualification.

Three athletes were selected by the JOA who benefited from Olympic Solidarity scholarships amounting to over $10,000,000.00 the funds of which were used to help the athletes in their day-to-day preparation to include nutritional support. Without the scholarship programme, many athletes would not be able to afford the expenses of their daily preparation for the games."

Sports require investment in human capital and JOA's policy has been unqualified. "Investment in winter is an investment for all seasons of sport as the JOA's philosophy and culture in so far as the development of sport and inspiring our youth are concerned, whether in competitive and recreational endeavours, is timeless, non-discriminatory and with the conviction that performances will become legendary," Samuda stated.

The qualification of teams in this year's winter Games – the men's four and two-way teams and in the women's monobob - and Benjamin Alexander in alpine skiing has earned congratulations from the ruling body.

In a recognition of the accomplishments, Foster stated "the JOA pays tribute and wishes all our athletes tremendous success in the upcoming games. Our gratitude to the management team led by Fitzgerald Mitchell, Chef de Mission, and Dr Wayne Palmer, sports leader and well-known and respected orthopaedic surgeon and the delegation's Chief Medical Officer (CMO) and Covid Liaison Officer (CLO), who no doubt will successfully navigate the landscape in China."

Meanwhile, Samuda in endorsing those sentiments remarked: "The accomplishment of our athletes is testament to the inspiration and commitment that has and continues to drive aspirations and dreams for themselves and their country on the ice and we are hopeful that a medal will be on the Beijing menu."

Italy will be the next destination for the winter games and already the JOA is visioning history in the making as it embarks upon a programme it has described as "The Italian Ice-Breaker” and awaits destiny.

World U20 sprint hurdles champion, Ackera Nugent, was in record-breaking form on Saturday’s second day of the Larry Wieczorek Invitational at the Recreation Building in Iowa City, Iowa.

Nugent, 19, set a new meet record of 8.11 for the 60m hurdles in the preliminary round and smashed it in the final, running a personal best of 7.90. The winning time was also a new track record, facility record and meet record.

The time moves Nugent to the 11th spot all-time in collegiate indoor track competition and the best-ever U20 time. Her teammate, Kennedy Bailey finished in second place with a time of 8.3 seconds.

For her efforts, Nugent was one of four MVPs at the meet alongside teammates Johnny Brackins who won the triple jump and Tuesdi Tidwell, who triumphed in the pole vault.

Meanwhile, Nugent’s compatriot Kavia Francis and teammates Mariah Ayers, Aaliyah Miller and Gontse Morake finished with a silver medal and a time of 3:40.87 in the 4x400m relay.

Kingston College dethroned rivals Jamaica College to claim their 16th Manning Cup title.

After playing out a 1-1 draw in regulation, Kingston College held their nerve to secure a 5-4 penalty shootout victory in the game at Stadium East.

Kingston College took the lead in the 29th minute through talisman Christopher Pearson who gave them the advantage with a calm finish.

Jamaica College got their equalizer with a 43rd-minute free-kick from captain Duncan McKenzie.

The game ended 1-1 after 90 minutes which sent the game to penalties.

Kingston College captain Jemone Barclay stepped up to slot home KC’s first penalty.

Romaine Blake followed suit for Jamaica College to make it 1-1.

Carrick Stewart of KC and Michael Graham of JC then both scored to make it 2-2.

KC’s goal-scorer on the day, Christopher Pearson, then stepped up to kick the third penalty but was the first casualty as his penalty was saved by JC goalkeeper Denzel Smith.

Captain Duncan McKenzie then scored for JC to make it 3-2 in the shootout.

KC’s Romario Campbell, who was put on at the end of added time specifically take a penalty, scored to make it 3-3.

JC’s Giovanni Mitto then stepped up to try and make it 4-3 but blasted his penalty over the bar.

Louis Watson then scored to make it 4-3 to KC.

JC’s Tarick Ximines scored to make it 4-4 and take it to sudden death before KC’s Demario McCarthy scored for KC to make it 5-4.

The match was decided when Jaheem Fraser’s penalty was saved by KC goalkeeper David Martin.

KC secured their 16th hold on the Manning Cup and a date with daCosta Cup champions Garvey Maceo in the Olivier Shield.

St. Catherine High secured back-to-back Walker Cup titles with a 1-0 win over Kingston Technical in the final at Stadium East on Saturday.

Despite what the final score suggests, it was a dominant display from St. Catherine who came close to opening the scoring in the 5th minute when Dwight Gentles hit the crossbar with a left-footed strike.

They once again found themselves unlucky when a right-footed shot from Jevin Parkinson cannoned off the left upright in the 57th minute.  Their persistence was eventually rewarded when they took the lead with the only goal of the game, a well-placed 89th-minute header from substitute Dillion Richards.

 

Sprinter Elaine Thompson-Herah and sprint hurdler, Hansle Parchment, were named Jamaica’s National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year for 2021, at the RJRGleaner Sports Foundation National Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards ceremony held on Friday night.

The event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thompson-Herah had a phenomenal 2021 season, which included her winning the 100m at the Diamond League final in Zurich and running 10.54 at the Eugene Diamond League to become the fastest woman alive and second fastest woman of all time.

Her greatest achievement in 2021, however, would have to be when she became the first woman in history to win the sprint double at consecutive Olympic Games.

Backing up her exploits from Rio in 2016, Thompson-Herah produced times of 10.61 and 21.53 to win gold medals in both the 100m and 200m at the Tokyo Olympics, in addition to being a part of Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team, alongside Briana Williams, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, who finished as runner-up for the Sportswoman of the Year award, and Shericka Jackson, that won the gold medal in a national record 41.02.

Parchment shocked the world to win gold in the Men’s 110m Hurdles in Tokyo, nine years after his bronze medal performance at the London Olympics.

He ran 13.04 to win gold in Tokyo ahead of prohibitive favourite Grant Holloway of the USA.

The past student of Morant Bay High and Kingston College was also third at the Diamond League final in Zurich.

His teammate Ronald Levy, who was the runner-up for the Sportsman of the Year Award, took home the bronze medal in Tokyo.

Other major awards given out on the day include the Chairman's Award to veteran journalist Lance Whittaker; the People's Choice "Performance of the Year Award" to Fraser McConnell; the VM Group Y.O.U.T.H Award to sprinter Tina Clayton and the Gleaner Newspaper Iconic Award to Michael Holding.

Garvey Maceo High School produced a five-star performance to win their first daCosta Cup title since 2007 with a comprehensive 5-0 win over Manning’s at STETHS today.

Garvey Maceo captain Gregory Cousins continued his stellar form this season with a hat-trick.

He gave his team the lead in the 14th minute with a composed right-footed finish after a wonderful display of skill to beat two Manning’s defenders.

Cousins got his second of the game to put Garvey Maceo 2-0 ahead in the 35th minute and completed his hat-trick with a 74th-minute free-kick from just outside the 18-yard box.

Cleo Clark got the other two Garvey Maceo goals on the day in the 45th and 85th minutes.

Garvey Maceo now have three schoolboy football titles in their history including two daCosta Cup titles and one Ben Francis Cup title.

They will now play either Kingston College or Jamaica College in the Olivier Shield.

 

Prominent Napoli forward Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano will miss out for Mexico against Jamaica’s Reggae Boyz, in the upcoming crunch World Cup qualifier, due to an accumulation of yellow cards.

The match is shaping up to be a crucial fixture for both teams.  The Jamaicans still harbour hope of securing a spot at the upcoming FIFA World Cup but find themselves off the pace in 6th place, seven points behind the final qualification spot with a few games to go.  However, the Mexicans could also find themselves out of the qualifying spots if the result does not go their way, as they are currently in third on 14 points, the same amount as third-place Panama. 

With crucial points on the line, Mexico would love to have the Napoli player to call upon.  The player, however, received a yellow card in the game against Canada, in the last round, on November 16, and prior to that one against El Salvador in October.

The player has nonetheless been called up for the round of matches and is expected to feature in follow-up games against Costa Rica and Panama.

 

Edwin Allen High School won their first trophy in schoolboy football after defeating St. Elizabeth Technical 3-2 in an enthralling final at STETHS on Friday.

Negus Daley followed up his goal in the semi-final against Frome Technical with the opener for the home side in the 16th minute.

Edwin Allen got the equalizer in the 47th minute through a right-footed strike from close range by Alwayne Bryan.

Jahiem Harris scored the first of his two goals on the day to give Edwin Allen a 2-1 lead in the 63rd minute.

Substitute Davin Wright got the goal that he thought would send the game to penalties for STETHS with a header in the 85th minute to make it 2-2 before Harris got his second of the game, a brilliant left-footed strike from outside the box to give Edwin Allen a 3-2 lead and secure their maiden Ben Francis Cup title.

 

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