Former National Under-23 goalkeeper Allien Whittaker is adjusting to his new role as a private in the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). He was one of 101 recruits passing out of the Moneague Training Camp in St Ann.

WHITTAKER ... represented
Jamaica at the Under-13, Under-17,
Under-20 and Under-23 levels

Playing football from the age of eight, Whittaker told the Sporting World that he "feels like a new person", having gone through a 15-week transition at the training camp.

"This training, I was told initially, had a six-month duration, but due to changes in the system it has been compacted into 15 weeks. It was tough and challenging, knowing that all my life I have been playing football. It's like a new world for me.

"One of the most challenging moments was the Catherine Peak run, when I placed 29th out of 101 and I saw this as an inspiration due to the difficulties in completing this task," Whittaker recalled.

He represented Jamaica at the Under-13, Under-17, Under-20 and Under-23 levels. His crowning moment was at the Under-20 World Cup tournament in Argentina in 2001, where he was adjudged best goalkeeper of the tournament.

Having played for National Premier League teams Hazard FC (now Portmore United), Rivoli FC and Village United FC, Whittaker will be turning his attention to keeping for the Soldiers in the Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) Super League.

Whittaker said he was encouraged and inspired to join the army by the sweeper of the Village team, Kirk Hendricks, who serves in the Third Battalion Jamaica Regiment (National Reserve).

Whittaker said that some of his classmates from his past high school, Clarendon College, who are serving as well, also encouraged him when he indicated to them that he would be applying to the JDF.

"Although I had reached the level of playing for the National Under-23 team, after I had the injury to my knee, I started to look into myself and saw that it was not working out for me, as things were deteriorating in the football fraternity and I was been overlooked," he revealed.

After his recovery from injury, Whittaker signed up with Village United, the last civilian club he played for before enlisting.

He still has a valid contract with Village, from which he will be seeking a release as soon as he settles down, to don the JDF's colour.

Army training, he said, required discipline, unity, and restrictions which was not the norm for him in his former lifestyle.

"The training works wonders for me and I encourage other young men and women, who have an interest, to try and get into the system," he proclaimed. "I now do things that under normal circumstances would have been impossible."

The 22-year-old has intentions of excelling in both his army and football career. He added: "I still have ambitions of making it to the national level due to the fact that I still have youth in my favour."

Whittaker was part of the schoolboy football team at Clarendon College which was triple crown champions in 1998.

Whittaker, who was originally a central defender, said he was inspired to play football by his father Patrick Whittaker (coach of Gimmi-mi-bit FC), coach Jackie Walters, national football goalkeeper coach Paul Campbell, and veteran Clarendon Youth coach John Greene, who gave him his very first training as a goalkeeper.

Goalkeeper coach Campbell was pleased about Whittaker's new direction and the positive steps he had taken to advance his life.

"For me, his football career was getting stagnant as his transition from the Under-23 into the senior team was being handicapped by injuries he received to his knee at a game between Rivoli and Harbour View.

"This did take a negative turn on his career as he was omitted from the squad playing the final against Mexico that year," Campbell added.