Was Andre Blake dropped from Jamaica’s national team for criticizing its governing body?
Blake wasn't included in the Reggae Boyz' squad to face Lionel Messi's Argentina later this month. Many fans, including one of Bob Marley's children, smell something rotten in Jamaica's federation.
Updated Sept. 16: After the Jamaican Football Federation hired former Iceland manager Heimir Hallgrimsson to run the men’s national team, the program announced that Andre Blake has been added to the squad for the game. Hallgrimsson told reporters in Jamaica that he spoke with Blake about the matter.
Later this month, Jamaica will play Argentina in a high-profile friendly at Red Bull Arena in northern New Jersey.
It will mean more to Lionel Messi and company than the Reggae Boyz, as it will be Argentina’s last game before the autumn World Cup in Qatar. But it will still be a showcase, and Jamaica has called up many of its big-name players for the occasion.
One of the biggest, though, won’t be there: Union goalkeeper Andre Blake.
And a lot of people in Jamaica smell a rat.
The decision certainly wasn’t based on his form. He’s been outstanding all season, the clear leader for MLS goalkeeper of the year and a candidate for league MVP.
Blake politely told the Jamaica Observer newspaper that he didn’t know why he wasn’t called up, and that they should ask the national team selectors.
A JFF spokesperson told the Observer that Blake wasn’t called up because he wasn’t on the squad for a late-August friendly tournament in Austria that was played behind closed doors.
But since that game wasn’t during a FIFA window — to say nothing of the quality of the opponents, Qatar and reserve squads from Ghana and Morocco — there was no reason for Blake to be there. Nor for any of Jamaica’s other stars, judging from the roster picked for the event.
Blake specifically named Rudolph Speid, who chairs the JFF’s technical and development committee. Speid fired back by telling the Observer that Blake “knows better and he’s careless and reckless to say that.”
That was enough for one of Jamaican soccer’s most powerful figures to blow the lid off. Cedella Marley, daughter of music legend Bob Marley and a longtime benefactor of Jamaica’s women’s program, let rip on Instagram.
“How can the captain of our mens national team not be called up for this historic match against Argentina?” she wrote. “Why do I feel he’s being punished for standing up to the Jamaica Football Federation? The whole world is watching @jff_football.”
Then she invoked some of her father’s most famous words: “You can fool some people sometimes but you can’t fool all the people all the time and now we see the light STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHTS”
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After Marley’s post, Blake gave an interview to the Jamaica Gleaner in which he let his true feelings out.
“We have so much talent which is going to waste because of lack of leadership and direction,” he said. Coaches and players have been changed, but the results remain the same and there is a common denominator. So what does that say?”
He further asserted: “You cannot run a joke program and expect players to take it seriously. ... If they decide not to select me again, I am fine. They will not use the non-selection to break me.”
At Wednesday morning’s Union practice, a club spokesperson said Blake didn’t want to say anything more. But a few hours later, Blake changed his mind and took to Instagram.
“With strength from the lord I will continue to fight for what I believe in,” he wrote. “Even if I have to fight alone I will. Together we are stronger.... Step up or get up.... I said what I mean and I mean what I said.”