Look at the schoolboy players, please!
Another epic season of schoolboy football has come to an end. This will no doubt go down as a season to remember what with the inaugural staging of the LIME Super Cup competition which finally facilitated the kind of rural-urban integration that many stakeholders have been long calling for.
Another flashpoint was the infamous 16-0 and 12-0 scorelines in the Manning Cup games involving Jamaica College-Denham Town High and Excelsior High-Holy Trinity High.
What was even more striking about this season, to my mind, was the high level of individual talent spread across both the Manning Cup and the daCosta Cup. While the levels of competitiveness and excitement are more of a constant from season to season, not every season throws up the impressive level of individual talent that has been on show this season.
In that context, I remain strident in continuing my relentless call to the football leadership in Jamaica to look in a more serious and strategic way at the top performers in the Manning and DaCosta Cup competitions with a view of getting these elite players involved in the national senior programme.
It continues to be an ideological struggle with the current thinking in the corridors of power that Jamaica's 18 and 19 year olds are not ready for the step up to the national level. That, to my mind, demonstrates the crippling lack of vision and absence of foresight that have helped to stagnate the development of our young local players. Lost on the football leadership is that this is not about having players who are ready, it is about enhancing and developing talent until they become ready.
The notion of a 19 or 18 year old being "too young" goes totally against the trend in world football. I contend that the idea of consistent, careful and meticulous investment in our best young players over time, will ultimately improve the stock of the national team.
There is a very delicate balance that needs to be found between the professionalism, work ethic, and experience of the overseas-based professional players and the raw talent, creativity, tenacity and hunger of the local-based component.
The harsh reality is that the England-born players who choose to represent Jamaica are fourth, third or at best second-rate players who are either too old or simply not good enough to play for England. I also contend that in terms of natural skill creativity and athleticism, the average local-based player is superior to the average second-rate foreign-based player.
The call has consistently come for the proponents of the investment in youth to provide names of specific players who could effectively make the transition from schoolboy football to international football, and while this recommendation remains more about a principle than about individual players, I accept the challenge to submit the names of at least six players who played schoolboy football this season who could be integrated into the national team immediately, before they disappear into obscurity.
Jamaica College's Junior Flemmings has demonstrated over several seasons his aptitude, attitude and talent worth harnessing.
Multitalented Jaheel Hyde of Wolmer's, if he decides to concentrate on football, has all the requisite attributes to make him a top-flight player. Camperdown's young, creative midfielder Ajouma Johnson is as gifted as they come at this age and can only get better with experience and exposure. Xhane Reid of daCosta Cup champions Clarendon College has outstanding skill and pace and is a proven big occasion performer.
Also in that Clarendon College team is the skilful and creative presence of Seigel Knight who is an awesome talent with the ball at his feet and has good vision. He seems set to move to the next level. St Elizabeth Technical's talismanic striker Donjay Smith just completed his fifth season of schoolboy football and is a creator and goalscorer worth gambling on.
These are just six of what could easily be 10 or 12 young players with the potential, I think, to make the transition to the next level. There is absolutely no guarantee of success, but if we can conjure up the vision and foresight to execute this process with conviction, I am willing to bet a pretty penny that at least one or two of these players would emerge as great success stories and that the gamble and investment would be more than worth it.