Five of the Best Jamaican Football Players Ever
Jamaica have been in CONCACAF Nations League action recently and head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson is tasked with taking the Reggae Boyz back to the World Cup in three years’ time. The 1998 tournament in France was the only time the team has qualified and the fans are desperate for some more success.
Results have been mixed in the last year or so and there may not be too many of the Las Vegas online betting sites giving Jamaican much of a chance of World Cup qualification. But we live in hope – and decided to look back at five of the best players ever to pull on the national colours. We’re pretty sure if these were in the team, the Reggae Boyz would be making it to that next World Cup.
Still the country’s leading goal scorer of all time, Luton Shelton scored four goals on his debut and didn’t stop after that. He eventually found the net on 35 occasions in just 75 games. He never made it to a World Cup finals but played at three separate CONCACAF Gold Cups.
He started his career in Jamaica for Harbour View but was soon noticed by European scouts. He played in Sweden, England, Norway, Denmark, Turkey, and Russia before returning to Jamaica to play for his first club again. Sadly this all-time Reggae Boyz legend died aged just 35, due to complications with motor neuron disease.
The most capped Jamaican player of all time, Ian Goodison spent the majority of his career in England, playing first for Hull City and then most notably for Tranmere Rovers. He ended up making 366 appearances for the Merseyside club and becoming a firm fans’ favourite in the process.
But he is also well known for his performances for his national side. Goodison was actually first noticed playing for minor clubs by Rene Simoes, the Brazilian manager who took Jamaica to the World Cup in 1998. Goodison went on to play for the Reggae Boyz 128 times, scoring ten goals in a 12-year period.
Another Jamaican great who started his career at Harbour View, “Bibi” Gardner played 111 times for his country and enjoyed a long and successful career with Bolton Wanderers – mostly while the club were in the English Premier League. He also won the club’s player of the year award in 2006.
Able to play anywhere on the left side of the pitch, as well as in the middle, Gardner was a much-loved player and played a major role in Jamaica’s World Cup story in 1998. He was the captain of the Reggae Boyz for a spell and has coached the country’s U-20 team since retiring from playing.
Figure 1 The dream for any player is to take the Reggae Boyz back to the World Cup
When you are the only player to ever score in a World Cup game that your country won you are going to be remembered fondly. Whitman was an integral member of the 1998 team that made it to the finals and beat Japan in the group stage. It was no surprise that he was named the Caribbean Player of the Year in 1998.
Whitmore played for Seba United intermittently during his career but also starred in England for Hull City and Tranmere, as well as in Scotland. He went into management after retiring from playing and enjoyed two separate spells as the Reggae Boyz head coach. He is currently at Mount Pleasant.
Our final Reggae Boyz legend is another player that represented his country so well at the 1998 World Cup in France. He was the ultimate utility player, performing for his country all over the pitch, but was also a prolific striker and only Luton Shelton has scored more goals than “Nandi” at international level.
Lowe actually played large chunks of his career in Jamaica. But he also turned out for a number of clubs in Canada and the US, as well as a few years in England. He might have scored even more goals for his country, were it not for a suspension incurred relating to off-field problems. Even with those issues, he is still remembered as one of the very best to pull on a Jamaica shirt.