Sun | Jul 15, 2018

On the Corner with EPOC | Dropping the ball - Gregory Park resident hurt by Ja's failure to return to FIFA World Cup final

Published:Monday | June 25, 2018 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines/Gleaner Writer
Jason ‘Buzz’ McDonald arguing for lower interest rates for small businesses during the most recent Gleaner On the Corner with EPOC forum in Gregory Park, St Catherine.
Brazil fans at a bar on Wildman Street in central Kingston.
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Since France 1998, Jamaica's qualification for the FIFA World Cup final has been nothing but a dream, and Gregory Park, St Catherine, resident Jason 'Buzz' McDonald is adamant that this is because of a lack of planning.

According to McDonald, the Reggae Boyz's failure to reach five successive tournaments since the famed '98 campaign is down to the Government's unwillingness to develop a national football academy to nurture the country's top junior talents.

McDonald, who was speaking during a Gleaner on the Corner with the Economic Programme Oversight Committee (EPOC) forum last Tuesday, charged that Jamaica has a history of ignoring young football talent.

"Our football needs a long-term, consistent plan, not a makeshift system where a group of men in their late 20s or 30s play a couple of games together," said McDonald.

He argued that in most cases, inner-city youngsters are born with the talent and desire to play international football but lack formal education, a shortcoming that the academy would also address.

"While football would be the core area for development, it would also advance the youth them literacy and numeracy-wise," said McDonald.

"In terms of size, we can't compete with a Brazil, Germany, or Belgium, but we've shown that we can compete with the best and biggest with the right infrastructure and plan in place. Eventually, what would happen is scouts from overseas will come to look at talent from 11- to 12-year-olds.

"Now, the plan that would be implemented is if the player goes overseas and starts playing for Manchester United or Manchester City or any other club, he cannot play for that country's national team, it has to be Jamaica. Also, whatever his selling price is overseas, a percentage must come back to the academy to keep it flourishing, so the Jamaican academy would almost serve as an agent as well," added McDonald.

He sided with Craig Butler of the Phoenix Academy, who has repeatedly argued that players at 17 and 18 years old should be playing in a professional environment rather than the local school leagues.

"You have to teach a youth the components of the game from the ages of 10, 11, 12. Our officials are probably saying, 'No, a the baller alone a go rich', but what about implementing a plan so the federation, the country can get rich too? If we don't get an academy going, [we] will forever be watching clips from '98," said McDonald.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com