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Richard McCallum grabs opportunity with both hands

Nodley Wright, Freelance Writer

While there were broad smiles on the faces of those who witnessed Jamaica's 2-1 win over Canada at the National Stadium on Sunday, October 8, the broadest one belonged to Richard McCallum, the goalkeeper.

That smile represented more than Jamaica earning a well-needed win against quality opposition. It was MaCallum's debut and he felt he had done well. And, doing well for him meant that he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Normally, Shawn Sawyers, who has been looking shaky of late in the national colours, would have been in goal in the absence of first string 'keeper Donovan Ricketts. With Sawyers reporting injured, McCallum, the Waterhouse goalkeeper, was given the nod over Leighton Murray of Village United.

Train hard

"Having had my first taste, I would love to get the opportunity to play in the next game against Peru on November 15," a pumped up McCallum told StarSports recently.

"Of course Donovan Ricketts will get the first preference. He is the more senior player, he has been there longer and has even captained the team before but I intend to train hard, give it my best performance so that I will be considered," continued McCallum who is aiming to become the country's first string goalkeeper and to play professionally abroad.

Based on his performance in his first game, the 22-year-old former Cornwall College student has every reason to believe that he will have more caps.

"After the game all my teammates congratulated me, coach Brown did, coach Wedderburn, coach Young and even some of the supporters came up to me and told me I did well," said McCallum who knew he would have been the man between the sticks six days before the game.

Great under pressure

The average player could have been daunted by the task of making his debut in front of his home crowd at a time when hardly anything appeared to be going right for the team. McCallum is tougher than the average person and has already demonstrated his ability to handle pressure by holding the record of being the youngest captain in the Wray and Nephew National Premier League when he led Invaders at the age of 20.

"I was kind of surprised but in a sense happy to get my debut for the senior team at 22 years old. I think I started out a bit shaky but my confidence grew as the game progressed. It went sky high after the first save," McCallum said of his feeling going into the game and how he acquitted himself once it got underway.

He said he got good support from captain Ricardo Fuller and his defenders. He pointed out his biggest challenge in the game was to bounce back when he conceded an early goal to Tomasz Radzinski.

"I think it was a really good strike and that there was nothing I could do about it. When we hit back though I was even more pumped up because I knew we had something to defend," said McCallum.

McCallum is an achiever. He has won every schoolboy competition he has participated in, including the daCosta Cup and the Ben Francis Cup in 2000 and the daCosta Cup, Ben Francis Cup and Olivier Shield in 2001.

McCallum first represented the country at the under-15 level in 1998, progressed to the under-17s, under-20s and under-23s before earning his first call up to the senior squad in the latter part of the last World Cup campaign and even went with the squad to England for a training camp in 2004.

He fell out of favour and was not invited for the 2005 Digicel Cup squad but regained favour this year with an invitation for the first leg of the Canada friendly in September and this year's Digicel Caribbean Cup.

His performance in the Canada game should ensure that he gets a longer look this time and with the attitude that whatever happens I want to ensure that I am in the frame", he just may become Jamaica's first string goalie.

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