Jamaica’s Coach Ahead of Copa América: “We Respect Mexico, But We Don’t Fear Them”

Winfred Schafer is an inveterate globetrotter. The German is somewhat of an outcast back home – with coaching spells in the Bundesliga dating back to both the 70s and the 80s – but that hasn’t stopped him from coaching far and wide. Schafer has wielded his coaching expertise from Cameroon to Thailand.

He has found new joy in his job as coach of Jamaica’s national team. In 2013, Schafer arrived in Kingston to manage the Reggae Boyz. Last year, the white-haired 66-year-old, with his dry wit and straightforward opinions, became a bit of a rockstar at the Gold Cup, because he guided Jamaica to the final against Mexico.

El Tri went on to defeat Jamaica 3-1 thanks to goals from Andrés Guardado, Jesús Corona, and Oribe Peralta. At the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Jamaica and Mexico will renew their recent rivalry during the group stages of Copa América Centenario. We spoke to Winfred Schafer about his reign in Jamaica.

You always say Bob Marley is everywhere in Kingston, so do you listen to his music?
Yes, on the bus or on Friday evening, otherwise it would be like Vienna without waltz.

“Mexico is one of the best teams in the world, there is no question.”

Last year for the first time, Jamaica reached the final of the Gold Cup. What was your team’s secret?
There was no special secret. Our success was built on teamwork, team spirit, passion, ardor, and discipline.

In the final you lost 3-1 to Mexico. What’s your story of that match?
The first 20 minutes, we were very good and had chances to score. Mexico’s 1-0 and 2-0 made the opponent stronger. Then they were better.

At the 2015 Copa América, Jamaica lost all its groups games 1-0. How do you reflect on that tournament?
That was a great experience for us and we learned a lot. Against Argentina, we were better in the last 30 minutes. It was a preparation for the Gold Cup.

You will meet Mexico again this time…
We respect Mexico, but we don’t fear them. Mexico is one of the best teams in the world, there is no question.

“We respect Mexico, but we don’t fear them.”

Can Jamaica progress from their group?
Yes, I hope that we qualify for the knockout phase. We need courage, luck, and our best possible team.

This will be the third major tournament in two years. How much has Jamaica progressed because of that?
We have gained much respect in the football world, but we can’t be happy yet: the Jamaican FA needs to continue to invest in football. I already need to prepare the path for the next generation of players.

You emphasize that Jamaica is not only about muscle and physicality. What’s the style and philosophy of your team?
Winning mentality, spirit, play good football, teamwork, and tactical variations. One for all, all for one.

In World Cup qualification, it’s said that Jamaica has lost too many points at home so far. Do you agree?
Yes, that’s correct. We have to analyze that and see what we need to change.

Will we see the Reggae Boyz at Russia 2018?
I do hope so and I am confident.