Schafer shapes Jamaica for today, future

Head coach Winfried Schafer (pictured) led Jamaica to the 2014 Caribbean Cup title. (Photo: Mexsport)

BALTIMORE, Maryland -- Jamaica has never won an elimination match in five previous attempts at the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

For head coach Winfried Schafer, that’s only the first part of history to reverse. 

After earning seven points and recording back-to-back shutouts to win Group B, Jamaica will be favored against Group A runner-up Haiti on Saturday night in the first-ever Gold Cup quarterfinal  featuring two Caribbean sides. 

“We’re happy about this and we want to make our Island happy, I hope, tomorrow,” Schafer said.

But the bigger picture remains cloudy as the Reggae Boyz attempt to infuse life into a country’s football consciousness that has not experienced a World Cup finals berth since its first in 1998.“1998 was very, very good for Jamaica -- fantastic,” expressed Schafer. “But we are in 2015. What were the last four World Cups?” 

Since that competition, Jamaica has only reached the fourth round of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying twice, finishing fifth in its bid to return for 2002 and sixth in the 2014 cycle.

“We have to analyze why, and when we know why, we can make a plan for the future,” Schafer continued. “If you live in the past, you have no shot in the future. It is in football the same as in politics.” 

There are positive signs, says the German, who guided Cameroon through the 2002 World Cup. He is beginning to see more Jamaican children playing the game, perhaps a response to a growing belief in the national side and a growing camaraderie among its players.

“I am long, longtime coach,” noted Schafer, manager for a dozen years at German club Karlsruher before leaving in 1998. “I’ve never saw this…team spirit. The players want to play for the country. It’s fantastic.”

The hope is for that momentum to translate into investment in youth infrastructure, he adds, citing how his native Germany responded by focusing on youth development after finishing bottom of its group in Euro 2000.

“For 2018 or 2022, this player plays on the street now,” Schafer signaled. “This player needs our help from the federation. This is what is important. Good football fields, all of what you need for football.”

Saturday brings challenges, including a Haitian side that has finished second in Group A, the only group of the tournament that included two sides from the 2014 World Cup (USA and Honduras).. 

Also, forward Darren Mattocks (red card) -- Jamaica’s leading scorer in last year’s Caribbean Cup -- and midfielder Je-Vaughn Watson (second caution) are suspended for offenses committed in Jamaica’s 1-0 win over El Salvador on Tuesday. 

“Maybe we change a little bit of system,” Schafer finished. “We played the last 20 minutes against El Salvador 3-5-2 and it was the same, like 4-4-2, was very good.”