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July 9, 2011
Star Sport


Roller-coaster ride

Carl Brown

Jamaican Carl Brown coaches Cayman against U-23 Reggae Boyz


Carl Brown admits he will be hard pressed to overcome "mixed emotions" when Jamaica confronts the Cayman Islands in an upcoming Olympic qualifier, the first time he will coach against the land of his birth in official football competition.

Adding to worries for Brown, Cayman's technical director, is that the game will be played on August 5, a day before Jamaica's official Independence. Listening to his own national anthem while representing another country was never part of his plans.

"It's not something I ever wanted, it's not something I am comfortable with," said Brown. "It's not something I look forward to."

For Jamaica's Reggae Boyz, the match is among their opening hurdles on the road to what would be a historic berth at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England.

In addition to Cayman, the Under-23s will also have to overcome St Vincent and the Grenadines on August 3 and host nation Suriname on August 7.

The winner of the group will play the top teams from the other three Caribbean zone groups. The best two from those match-ups advance to the final round of CONCACAF qualifiers, which features eight teams split into two groups, including two from the Caribbean, three from Central America, plus the United States, Canada and Mexico.

CONCACAF's top two will join 14 other countries at the Olympics.

The disparity in world rankings between the countries - Jamaica at 38 and Cayman, 160 - indicates the Boyz should comfortably roll over Cayman. But Brown, the former long-time Jamaica player and coach, is confident his team can win the clash in Paramaribo.

"We have a very good chance for an upset," Brown said.

Unlike Cayman, Jamaica have played in several global events, including the Under-17 (twice), Under-20 and senior World Cup. Many of the Under-23 Boyz are attached to high-profile clubs in Jamaica and elsewhere.

more international exposure

Brown admits Jamaica have far more international exposure, while Cayman have struggled to secure games. In 2009, Cayman played a single international, Brown said. Last year, the country's five games included three qualifiers in the Digicel Caribbean Cup (DCC). So far in 2011, Cayman have managed two friendly games, against Jamaican club teams.

"Playing games is the recipe for progress," Brown explained from the Cayman Islands on July 8. "It's the opposite here. We just don't play enough international games.

"Financially, the Cayman Islands are not able to attract quality teams here."

However, Cayman should field a relatively seasoned squad on August 5. Brown will be banking on players who made up the majority of the senior team during the DCC qualifiers.

a good squad

"We have assembled a good squad of players," he said. "There's not a great deal of difference in talent in the Caribbean. We do have a batch in the last Under-23 age level. That is a big plus for us going into the game."

Another possible edge is Brown's familiarity with Jamaica, including players and strategy. Yet, the former central defender claimed both teams are open books.

"There is not a whole lot to hide," Brown said. "The game is so exposed ... .There are no more secrets in the game."

Yet, he will try to mask his own emotions come August 5. Brown experienced a similar emotional roller coaster in the early 1990s as he watched a Cayman Under-20 team, which he admittedly "worked a lot with," beat Jamaica 1-0 in Kingston. Now he's in charge, Brown understands he has no choice but to back Cayman.

"One recognises that it is part of the profession," he said. "One just has to deal with it."

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