Ja­maican FA Cup hero en­joy­ing new-found fame

The Star (Jamaica) - - Sports The Weekend Star - RACHID PARCH­MENT STAR Writer

Jamille Matt came to promi­nence this week, even in the eyes of Ja­maica Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion pres­i­dent Michael Rick­etts, when his goal helped Eng­lish Foot­ball League Two side New­port County to a fa­mous 21 up­set over for­mer Eng­lish Premier League cham­pi­ons Le­ices­ter City in the FA Cup on Sun­day.

Matt, 29 years old, spent the first 10 years of his life in the St An­drew com­mu­nity of Maver­ley, just a few streets away from where Manch­ester City star Ra­heem Ster­ling lived be­fore he also mi­grated to Eng­land. The youngest of three sib­lings, Matt fondly re­mem­bers play­ing foot­ball in his child­hood with his fa­ther and watch­ing Brazil games on tele­vi­sion with him.

A past stu­dent of Obis­tan Kinder Prepara­tory School, Matt took part in its track and field and foot­ball teams. He ran at the JISA Prepara­tory Schools Cham­pi­onships but says he did not do well there. He joked that he would later re­alise foot­ball was his true call­ing.

“I was prob­a­bly into ath­let­ics a lit­tle bit more,” he told STAR SPORTS. “I played foot­ball with my dad when I was young but was more into ath­let­ics. The older I got, I was more into foot­ball. When I came to Eng­land, that’s when I took more in­ter­est in foot­ball, be­cause

ath­let­ics isn’t as big here as it is in Ja­maica. That’s kinda when the tran­si­tion hap­pened.”

He said he did not think that foot­ball would be­come a pro­fes­sion for him, as play­ing started as a hobby and he then re­alised how well he could play.

“A cou­ple of my friends wanted me to join their lo­cal team, so I did,” he said. “It wasn’t un­til I was 15/16, I went to a semi-pro­fes­sional youth team (Sut­ton Cold­field Town), and then from there, into their first team.”

GREW UP SUP­PORT­ING AR­SE­NAL

Matt grew up sup­port­ing Ar­se­nal FC and club leg­end Ian Wright, who has Ja­maican par­ents, is one of his favourite play­ers. Wright was a tele­vi­sion pun­dit for Sun­day’s game and spoke highly of Matt af­ter­wards. While this pleased the New­port man, he ad­mit­ted to be­ing dis­ap­pointed he did not get a chance to meet him af­ter­wards.

He also idolised Ar­se­nal leg­end Thierry Henry.

“He was some­one I al­ways looked up to and some­body I wanted to play like,” he said. “If I could be any­thing like him, it woulda be good even just, you know, the way he fin­ished. He’d side foot the ball into the bot­tom cor­ner, and that’s what I used to model my­self on. But I got a bit taller and was suited to play a bit dif­fer­ently, so I’m more of a tar­get man. I had to evolve and play a dif­fer­ent style.”

Matt said he felt The County (as they are called) could have got­ten a pos­i­tive re­sult be­fore the start of the game, and it made him play with­out fear. He took in­spi­ra­tion from the pre­vi­ous sea­son when they drew with Tot­ten­ham Hot­spur, forc­ing a re­play, which they lost late on. To get on the score­sheet, Matt had to out­mus­cle com­pa­triot and for­mer Ja­maica cap­tain Wes Mor­gan for his header on goal.

“To be hon­est, it’s prob­a­bly one of those things where he didn’t know what hit him, be­cause that’s some­thing that we kinda work on,” he said. “I know how good (team­mate) Rob­bie (Will­mott) is, and as soon as he got the ball, I knew that if I got my­self in a good po­si­tion in the box, then I knew that he’d be able to find me.

“I set off to the back post be­cause Rob­bie knows my strengths and I know his, so I knew where to be. So that was some­thing Wes Mor­gan couldn’t af­fect, be­cause I got my­self into a good po­si­tion where he couldn’t get back at me,” he said with a chuckle.

He ded­i­cates the goal to his two-year-old son and his aunt, Es­ther, whom he said was a big sup­porter of his ca­reer. She died two years ago, just a week after he signed for for­mer club Fleet­wood Town.

BE PART OF THE HIS­TORY

Walk­ing the streets of New­port has been even more of a joy to Matt since the win.

“Ev­ery­one I’ve spo­ken to after the game have just been full of praise and con­grat­u­la­tions,” he said proudly. “It’s ob­vi­ously nice to be part of the his­tory and part of some­thing the club has achieved. The club has been re­ally good to me since I signed, and so have the fans. So I wanted to re­pay the faith they showed in me by scor­ing. It meant a lot to me, their sup­port.

“I just want to con­cen­trate just on foot­ball for the rest of the sea­son and let it do the talk­ing. If it brings in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion, then that would be some­thing I’m very happy about but I need to fo­cus on the field be­fore that can ma­te­ri­alise.”

Matt turn­ing out in the black, green and gold of Ja­maica is not a far-fetched thought, as Rick­etts is not op­posed to the idea.

“We have an open door pol­icy and we want to en­sure that at all times, we have our best play­ers rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try,” Rick­etts said. “It doesn’t mat­ter where they’re from. We cer­tainly want to have a look at who­ever we think might be good enough and we need now, in cer­tain de­part­ments, to strengthen our team, be­cause we have a tough game com­ing up in Cen­tral Amer­ica in March.”

Matt wanted to face his favourite club in the fourth round of the FA Cup, how­ever, they have been drawn at home against ri­vals Manch­ester United, while New­port travel to the River­side Sta­dium to meet Mid­dles­brough FC.

AP

New­port County’s Ja­maican striker Jamille Matt (left) out­jumps coun­try­man Wes Mor­gan (cen­tre) to score his side’s first goal of the game against Le­ices­ter City, dur­ing their Eng­lish FA Cup third-round match at Rod­ney Pa­rade in New­port, Eng­land on Sun­day, Jan­uary 6, 2019.

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