Burke shows ‘Steel’ for Jamaica

Jamaica international Cory Burke (white jersey) shown playing for Bethlehem Steel FC in a 2016 USL match against FC Cincinnati. (Photo courtesy of Bethlehem Steel FC)

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Cory Burke may have made his Jamaica debut in the final qualifier of its prematurely ended qualifying campaign for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, but that occasion could end up marking the start of something big.

The 24-year-old started and played 73 minutes, before giving way to Clayton Donaldson, in a 2-0 loss to visiting Haiti on September 6, 2016.

“I never played at youth level for Jamaica,” Burke told CONCACAF.com.  “To get a senior call up and to make my debut at home was even more special.  It has always been my ambition to play for the national team, so I am grateful my club form paid dividends for me.”

The former St. George’s College standout plays with USA side Bethlehem Steel FC in the USL, where he scored four goals and added two assists in 20 appearances during the recently-completed 2016 season.

Burke believes the moment that put him more clearly on the national team’s radar came on August 21, when he scored in a 3-2 loss to FC Montreal.

“I remember like it was yesterday,” Burke said.  “There was a cross into the box and I used my left foot and slotted it in the back of the net.  I felt it was one of my best games since leaving Jamaica.  The keeper (Maxime Crepeau) was difficult to beat that day, but persistence does give rewards.

“A few days after that I got called up, so I feel it was my performance on a cold day in Quebec, Canada, did the trick for me.”

Burke credit his overseas opportunity to the time he spent with Rivoli United in Jamaica’s Red Stripe Premier League, scoring 25 goals in 52 games. 

“Rivoli United was where it all started when I was 21 as a youth footballer,” finished the forward, who scored his first goal for the Reggae Boyz in 4-2 win at Guyana in a Caribbean Cup match on October 11.  “I developed on my finishing there and it was helping me and the team.  Other teams in the league were interested in me but in late 2015 Bethlehem Steel FC offered a loan overseas move for me and I gladly accepted the offer.  I knew if I wanted to play internationally for my country, I would have to play abroad so as to be more competitive and challenge for a strike spot in the national team.

“Now having made my debut and scored my first goal for Jamaica.  My next aim for me as a professional is to push to play in the MLS or in Europe.  Accomplishing those goals will make me feel satisfied.”

And Jamaicans very happy.