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Canada’s diversity creates family complications against Jamaica

There will be more than FIFA ranking points and revenge on the line at BMO Field on Saturday.

Soccer: 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup-Jamaica at Canada Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Not only did the Jamaicans knock Octavio Zambrano's side out of this summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, but for several Canada players, a match against the island nation of their heritage creates a modicum of domestic strife.

“[They're] a special opposition for a lot of players having Jamaican roots,” said Tosaint Ricketts. “Myself, a few other players – Raheem [Edwards], [Junior] Hoilett, [Cyle] Larin.”

It makes for some awkward conversations around the dinner table.

“Half my family is rooting for them a little bit,” smiled Hoilett. “They're rooting for me [too] but, born in Jamaica, they like to see them win as well.”

Ricketts confirms those split loyalties, but knows who get pride of place: “My family root for me first, but they were born in Jamaica and they still have a soft spot in their heart for Jamaica. Family first.”

Such close ties add a little more to the festivities.

“It does [add a little bit of spice],” said Larin. “I know most of the guys on [Jamaica]; a couple guys on our team speak Patois, can speak it back to them. It's fun to play against them.”

And with ticket sales approaching 19,000 as of Friday, there will be more than a little of that Caribbean yellow amongst the sea of red at BMO Field.

The two teams last met in Toronto in September of 2014, with Canada winning 3-1 on goals from Ricketts, David Edgar and Marcel de Jong after Kemar Lawrence had given the visitors the lead on the half-hour mark.

But Jamaica has gotten the better of Canada at recent Gold Cups. Rodolph Austin nabbed the late winner during the group stage of the 2015 edition, while goals from Shaun Francis and Romario Williams in the opening minutes of each half were too much for the Canadians in the 2017 quarter-finals despite Hoilett’s reply.

“It's a little funny. I don't know if my mom is going to be cheering for Jamaica or Canada,” admitted Edwards. “It's going to be cool. Here in Toronto there is a huge Jamaica heritage. It's going to be a fun one.”