Football: Trooping the colours Kingston style

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The Independent Online
Sporting spectators in the Jamaican capital of Kingston left with some unexpected time on their hands following the abandonment of the first cricket Test between the West Indies and England at least had some live international sport to watch on Thursday evening.

Jamaica's football team, who have qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time and dramatically boosted the sport's popularity on the island, drew 0-0 with Sweden in a friendly played at Kingston's national stadium.

The match was a warm-up not just for the World Cup, which starts in France in June, but for the Gold Cup, which starts in the United States tomorrow. Jamaica's opening fixture is formidable - they face the world champions, Brazil, in Miami on Tuesday. They then move on to Los Angeles to play El Salvador and Guatemala.

Jamaica's qualifying matches for the World Cup attracted noisy and exuberant crowds to cheer on the Reggae Boyz, as the team are known. Thursday's turn-out in Kingston was no exception, with face-painting, dancing and loud music to keep the locals lively. Journalists covering the cricket tour have been surprised to find that football is now the country's most popular sport.

Jamaica used several English-born players in the World Cup qualifiers but only two appeared against the Swedes: Portsmouth's Paul Hall and Fitzroy Simpson. Sweden fielded an under-strength team with no big-name exiles.

It was Hall who had the best chance of the game: he saw a shot cleared off the line late in the first half. Jamaica's Brazilian born coach, Rene Simoes, said: "I don't see this match as draw, but a win - and that's what we are hoping for against Brazil."

- Rupert Metcalf

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