‘Prepared for failure’
To say that Jamaican football fans are disappointed by the performance of the Under-20 Reggae Boyz in the just- concluded CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers must be the understatement of the New Year so far.
Despondent, depressed, and angry more aptly reflect the general mood across the local football fraternity after the timid showing by the host team.
Blaming coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore for the team's ultimate demise represents a fashionable and easy way out. Upon closer analysis of what transpired leading into and during the tournament, it is obvious there is ample blame to be allocated, starting at the very top of the chain of command in Jamaica's football hierarchy.
The President of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), Captain Horace Burrell, and his technical committee, must be first in the line of fire for directly, or indirectly, allowing the host nation to field such a woefully underprepared team in a tournament of this magnitude.
Somewhere in the whirlwind of the overall staging of the event it appears to have been lost on the JFF how much of a golden opportunity this was to qualify another age-group team for the World Cup finals.
The fact that two of Jamaica's three previous junior World Cup qualifications, in 1999 and 2011, came via final-round tournaments played right here in Jamaica, never seemed to trigger the kind of urgency and awareness of how rare an opportunity hosting this tournament was.
It all started with the appointment of Whitmore and Lenworth 'Teacher' Hyde as the head coach and assistant coach, respectively.
Two great former players who happen to have very little or no coaching experience, and, or success with this age group, had the herculean task of getting the Jamaica team tactically, technically, and psychologically ready in three to four weeks.
The typical and predictable excuses will no doubt be coming fast and furious from the local football bosses. Already, we are being told that mere schoolboys from Jamaica were competing against full professionals from Mexico and the United States of America (USA).
This, to my mind, represents either a complete misunderstanding or miscalculation of the situation as exists in that technically, Jamaica does not compete against Mexico and the USA for World Cup final spots. The teams that Jamaica should target for perennial tussles should be the likes of Panama, Guatemala, Honduras, Canada, El Salvador, etc. These are our direct competitors for those third and fourth qualifying spots. That makes the superiority of the Mexicans and the Americans redundant in this context.
The impressive Panamanians, all except for one player, play their football in the Panamanian leagues. The Guatemalans, the Hondurans, the Salvadorians and the Trinidadians all have similar dynamics to their team composition.
So while accepting that Mexico and the USA are superior, it is absolutely unacceptable for those other teams to march into Jamaica and outplay, embarrass, and eliminate us from such an important tournament, not because they have better players, but simply because they were more focused and better prepared than Jamaica.
That suggests either a lack of will or basic incompetence on the part of those charged with the responsibility for the technical oversight of the nation's football.
In the final analysis, no elaborate multimillion-dollar commission of enquiry needs to be set up; no lengthy convoluted reports need to be submitted for us to see that too many blatantly wrong decisions were made leading into this tournament, from an administrative and a technical standpoint, starting with the appointment of Whitmore as head coach.
It was just too much of a critical gamble, with such a crucial moment to be seized.
But even more fundamental to the embarrassing failure of the team was the rushed and inadequate preparation of the team for such a big assignment, especially for such a pivotal age group in the chain of Jamaica's football development.
The young Boyz, through no fault of their own, were just not prepared for this tournament, which, ultimately, prepared them to fail.