Better pitches, better ballers
EFFORTS at improving the standard of playing pitches locally have been lauded by Captain Horace Burrell, president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).
This, he said, is fundamental to the development of the game locally, and consequentially, the country's performance on the international stage, as poor playing fields have hampered the sport in a 'great' way.
"Football in Jamaica today is far advanced than what it was 10 years ago," said Burrell. "There's still a far way to go and we're working at it. It will not happen overnight, but I'm satisfied with the level of seriousness that is now being applied, even with the playing surfaces."
He continued: "I think our development has been hampered greatly by the state of playing surfaces, but it takes a lot of money.
"Jamaica is a poor country and it is a costly affair, it's a costly exercise," he noted.
For more than a decade, most local clubs have invested heavily in the development of their infrastructure, more so those that participate in the Premier League, as it is a requirement for their match venue to fit criteria pertaining to its pitch standard and amenities.
The Government, through the Sports Development Foundation, has also assisted some clubs and other communities to upgrade playing fields with perimeter fencing for lower league competitions.
Burrell said while they are not all at the required stage, the direction in which they are going augurs well for national growth.
"You'll have to creep before you walk, and I'm encouraged by the level of improvements and what I see with the effort being made by the clubs.
"That will see our players performing much better in tournaments and in games," Burrell surmised.
In terms of the latter, Jamaica will have plenty in 2015.
"The football is alive and well and we've a very busy schedule lined up for the year. It's going to be a very busy year, not only for the senior team (men's), but the junior teams as well," Burrell pointed out.
The Reggae Boyz, the senior men's national team, will participate in two mid-year tournaments - the Copa America in Chile, followed by the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the United States. Additionally, Burrell said they are expected to play a number of friendly internationals, beginning on the next FIFA date in March.
" The Under-17s, they've qualified for the CONCACAF Championship which will take place in Honduras, San Pedro Sula, in February, and in January, there will be the CONCACAF Under-20 World Cup qualifiers, involving 12 teams in Kingston and Montego Bay," Burrell outlined.
Both teams travelled recently for warm-up games in preparation for the final-round qualifiers which could send Jamaica on to the World Cup.
The women's senior team recently missed World Cup qualification, but Burrell said they will continue preparations.
"As for the women's team, arrangements are now being made by Ambassador Cedella Marley to play in a series of warm-up games."
This, too, is aimed at fostering the growth aided by efforts to continue improving playing surfaces, to which Burrell has taken a liking.