Fitzroy Simpson’s place in Jamaican football history is already assured but he now wants to help others emulate him.
After drawing with Mexico to qualify for France 1998, a national holiday was declared the next day on the caribbean island.
The former Portsmouth and Manchester City midfielder still treasures the memories of Jamaica’s only World Cup finals appearance.
Simpson is determined to ensure those historic days are not a one-off and has reached out to the Jamaica Football Federation to offer his assistance again.
Simpson believes the nation ranked 45th in the world has the potential to get to Qatar 2022 and following World Cup too.
Jamaica previously qualified as Simpson committed alongside fellow British-based stars such as Paul Hall and Deon Burton.
Now Simpson says the JFF have no time to lose as they aim to tap into uncapped, eligible talent like Michail Antonio, Demarai Gray and Ashley Fletcher.
They would add to Jamaica’s established stars including winger Leon Bailey of Bayer Leverkusen.
Simpson, 51, who won 36 caps for the Reggae Boyz, reflected: “Even now I still have to pinch myself when I think what we actually achieved.
“It was breathtaking.
“It was the greatest honour in my playing career to lead Jamaica to history.
“I remember my mother, my brother and my uncle in the stadium when we qualified.
“I looked at them and couldn’t believe what we had achieved because Jamaica wasn’t recognised as a footballing nation.
“But the whole country really drove us on , the support was incredible.
“It was almost like it came from up above.
“There wasn’t really a national holiday because no-one was in a fit state to go to work anyway!
“The fans made me, Paul and Deon very welcome and we clicked straight away.
“I have been following it with a passion since and I am looking forward the Reggae Boyz hopefully being at the World Cup in 2022 and 2026.
“My burning desire now is to assist in any way I can to help Jamaica make it to another World Cup and rekindle those glory days which unified the country.
“It is not just about the football, it is what it does to the community.”
With the Concacaf Gold Cup set for July and World Cup qualifiers later this year, Jamaica coach Theodore Whitmore should be fine-tuning his squad.
But the majority of Jamaica’s established national players were missing from a 4-1 friendly loss to USA last month due to a pay dispute with the JFF.
An agreement over match fees and bonuses has only just been reached but Simpson wants the JFF to modernise and improve off the field, including attracting new sponsors.
Simpson, who played in every game in 1998 alongside Whitmore, added: “Unity is so important.
“The set-up now has to be unified and improvements made on the business side.”
Simpson dreams of Kingston’s 35,000-capacity Independence Park stadium , known as The Office, bouncing again.
He added: “If you come into my office, I am the boss and that has to be mentality.
“That ground gets full to the rafters, if there is 35,000 inside there is 65,000 outside who you can hear.
“I have played in Manchester derbies, Portsmouth- Southampton, Bristol City-Swindon and Scottish derbies but that stadium once full is not for the faint hearted.”
But for all Simpson’s fond memories of France, it still niggles Jamaica never got out of their group after losing their opener 3-1 to Croatia, when Robert Prosinecki made it 2-1 with a mis-hit cross, before crashing to Argentina and beating Japan.
“We knew we had the possibilities to beat Japan but needed to take something from Croatia,” he reflected.
“I have asked Prosinecki since did he mean it and he said: ‘no’.”
Since retiring from football, Simpson has become an agent and has teamed up with Marlon Gilbert-Roberts a Jamaican-born lawyer and businessman, who is the co-founder and managing director of the ‘Business 2 Sports Group’ in Belgium.
The duo have plans to help grow Jamaica’s fanbase and commercial activities, including around the team and the country’s famous food and music scene.
Their vision also includes developing Jamaica’s successful women’s team the Reggae Girlz, supported by the Bob Marley Foundation under the late singer’s daughter Cedella.
Gilbert-Roberts, who holds a Masters in International Football Business, said: “If the fans are engaged , excited and fully behind the team, then everything is possible.”
Simpson added: “I have lived this journey of how it can be done and how passionate it is.
“There is so much talent out there.
“Our national motto is “out of many, one people”. That is the way we win – together.”