Skip to Content

Why Jamaica’s Best Player Has Abandoned His Team at the Copa America

Why Jamaica’s Best Player Has Abandoned His Team at the Copa America

Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey was supposed to be Jamaica’s leader and star forward leading them into the Copa America. But as the Reggae Boyz suffered a damning 3-1 loss to Ecuador, it appears that Bailey is only too happy to be partying around in his vacation period.

Jamaica has some notable figures in their Copa America side. It includes West Ham United forward Michail Antonio and Fulham man Bobby de Cordova-Reid. The likes of Brentford man Ethan Pinnock and ex-Leicester City winger Demarai Gray also feature. But the side lacks that unpredictability and attacking spark that someone like Bailey could bring.

Interestingly, the Aston Villa man was actually included in their Copa America 2024 squad. This came after he was suspended by the Jamaican football federation in March (2024) for supposedly breaking curfew while with the Reggae Boyz squad.

Jamaica’s head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson confirmed this, saying: “We basically have a lot of agreements between the staff, the coaches and the players, but we have only one rule: Don’t leave the hotel after 10 p.m. These players did, didn’t even sleep at the hotel, missed the bus the next morning.”

Bailey was adamant at defending himself against these accusations and stated on social media that this was ‘misleading information’. He also slammed the lack of professionalism within the national team unit, claiming that he had to book his own flights to travel from England to wherever Jamaica was to play.

Bailey fumed that he didn’t get any money for playing for his country and further told the Let’s Be Honest podcast: “You’re turning up and they don’t have equipment for you. You’ll go and they’ll only have one shirt for you, and you have to find shorts. Players turn up to games and it’s a women’s shirt they print out for them to wear. It’s ridiculous and they don’t know how to operate.”

Despite the rift between him and the Jamaican football federation, the Aston Villa star’s impressive performances in the Premier League compelled them to select him as part of the Copa America squad. However, the 25-year-old made it clear soon after that he will not be able to play for the Reggae Boyz in Copa America.

Amid speculation that he did so because of the previous complaints made against the Jamaican squad, Bailey’s agent and step dad Craig Butler cited the reason as a ‘mental health break’, claiming: “Leon Bailey has stated that he is taking a break from the Jamaica national team for his mental health and to spend time with his family. His position has not changed.”

But right before the Jamaican squad started their Copa America campaign, the Aston Villa winger was seen having a blast in a party in his vacation. He doesn’t seem to have any ‘mental health problems’ in this occasion and is having a wild time dancing with his buddies and enjoying his personal time as his national teammates struggle to strongly compete in Copa America.

Bailey has attracted quite a lot of criticism for his decision to snub his national country and enjoy a vacation instead. Fans are pointing towards how the other Jamaican players are making the same sacrifice to represent their country rather than openly venting their frustrations like Bailey. Some are pointing to how Leon can learn from players like ex-Nottingham Forest forward Lyle Taylor, who reportedly paid a part of the Montserrat manager Lee Bowyer’s salary out of his own pocket.

Some have also noted at Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who chose to play for Gabon instead of France and tried to get the best out of his national team. Bailey, however, appears to have burned all bridges with the Jamaican football federation and it’ll take a bit of a miracle to get him back playing for the Reggae Boyz in the near future.