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Jamaica will be everyone’s second favourite team at the 2021 World Cup, predicts the man who has masterminded their fairytale rise through the ranks.
The Reggae Warriors, who failed to reach the previous two World Cups, made history with their 16-10 win over the United States which earned them the 11th place out of 16 at the tournament in England in three years time.
Their feat has been recognised by the government in Kingston, with Sports Minister Olivia Grange leading the tributes and Jamaica Rugby League Association (JRLA) director of rugby Romeo Monteith hoping it can herald a breakthrough for the sport in the Caribbean.
Grange said: “These have been such wonderful displays by Jamaica in a sport in which we have not been traditionally strong.
“Not just the players but the coach, the manager and all others around the team deserve our highest regard and, as the minister of sport, it is my great pleasure to convey those sentiments to them as we laud the magnificent performance that has once again created history for Jamaica.”
Monteith, who has been involved in JRLA since its formation in 2004, says the team’s success at the weekend makes up for the ridicule they encountered in the early days.
“It is incredible to think that Jamaica is going to be in front of millions of people in 2021. I think Jamaica will be everyone’s second favourite team,” Monteith said.
“It means a great deal for all the people who have sacrificed so much and all the boys who funded their own way to represent their country and families at the qualifiers — all of us who were laughed at and ridiculed and told we were wasting our time.
“There has been so many sacrifices over the years. I’ve had very little social life for almost a decade or interest outside rugby league, to be honest. I’ve just been driven to achieve objective after objective and give as many Jamaicans as possible the chance to experience this wonderful sport.
“Many times I’ve contemplated stopping. Family is so important and sometimes when the sport you love threatens to tear you apart from the people you love … it becomes tough.
“It’s also been so hard when we haven’t got a field in Jamaica to play on, seeing kids I care about bruise and break bones, kids I’ve trained and am responsible for.”
Monteith is already thinking about possible legacy.
“I hope it’s a home for Jamaica Rugby League,” he said. “We just want a field with a changing room and clubhouse, where there is no one to chase us away and the kids can play safely.
“I hope our government, corporate Jamaica, everyone on the island and the millions in the diaspora give support and respect to this team and sport because it’s great for building character in young men and women.”
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