Aston Villa star suspended after squad selection confusion

Leon Bailey did not represent Jamaica at the Copa America
-Credit: (Image: Photo by Jeff Dean/Getty Images)

Aston Villa winger Leon Bailey has been indefinitely suspended from the Jamaica national team after refusing to play at the Copa America despite being named in Heimir Hallgrimsson's squad.

The 26-year-old was a surprise inclusion in the team because he has been vocal about his criticism of the Jamaica Football Federation since last year, when he explained why he was taking an indefinite break from playing for his nation. He hasn't played for Jamaica since last November in a match against against Canada.

"A lot of people haven't really thought about it from my point of view, how it is for me being Leon Bailey, playing for the national team that's nowhere close to an England for professionalism or anything like that. I'm used to a professional lifestyle," Bailey told the Let's Be Honest podcast in March.

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“A lot of people don’t know that most of the time I book my own flights to come and represent Jamaica because they [the Federation] are very unprofessional. You’re getting your flight details sent to you [at] 11 pm before you have to travel the next day.

"The Jamaican national team doesn’t pay me. I can’t remember the last time I received a dollar from the Jamaica national team," he added. "It’s very unprofessional, in ways you can’t even imagine."

Jamaica have been eliminated from the Copa America after losing their first two group games, against Mexico and Ecuador. A number of Premier League stars have featured for the Reggae Boyz at the tournament, including West Ham's Michail Antonio and Fulham's Bobby Decordova-Reid.

Asked about Bailey's situation and why he was called up, Jamaica manager Halgrimsson told Halftime TV: "In his case, he decided not to want to play for Jamaica, That's his decision, and that's every player's right to refuse to play for the nation, and he opted to do that. End of story for me."

When Bailey was included in the squad, his adoptive father and agent Craig Butler described the situation as "misleading", quickly setting the record straight. JFF General Secretary Dennis Chung has since explained that the organisation's decision to suspend Bailey is for 'clarity'.

A statement released by the JFF on June 26, read: "The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), has made the decision to temporarily suspend the selection of Leon Bailey to the senior Men’s National Team. This decision has been made in light of recent circumstances surrounding his comments and non-participation in the Copa America 2024 team, despite being selected.

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"Consideration was also given to his stated desire to take a break from national duties, and suspending his selection will guard against any further miscommunication. The JFF values the contributions of all players and respects their individual decisions regarding national team participation."

Chung added: “We think it’s important to do it and also the player stated that he’s unavailable. Therefore, in order to ensure that there’s no more miscommunication, we thought that the best thing to do, until we resolve everything, is to suspend his selection,” said Chung. We also stated to the player that, whenever he’s ready, he should write to us so that we don’t leave anything to misinterpretation,” Chung explained.

“We are facilitating what the player has asked for in requesting a break from national duties. We couldn’t put a timeline on the disciplinary and ethics committee. Also, we didn’t want to put a timeline on the player. Therefore, the timeline would be when he writes to us and states that he’s available now.

“We just have to do what’s best for the football. I think this will help, as it will provide clarity. One of the challenges that we’ve had in the past is that clarity wasn’t there. If you don’t do that, then you’ll never get to a better place.”

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