This foreign philosophy
Having seen what is being touted as Jamaica's strongest possible team play as guests in the ongoing Copa America tournament in Chile, I am left bitterly disappointed.
I was otherwise engaged and missed their first game against Uruguay which, by all accounts, was a fair performance despite the result. The fact of the matter, though, is that they lost that game, as well as the element of surprise. After that, it was all downhill for the Reggae Boyz.
In all fairness, they were playing in one of the most difficult international tournaments in world football, and against some of the best players on the planet, an absolute far cry from beating Haiti, Martinique, Antigua & Barbuda, and Trinidad & Tobago and winning the Caribbean Cup. In assessing the game of football at any level, though, there are two fundamental things to look for: how well the team maintains its shape, and how the team transitions from defence into attack, and vice versa. Every game plan and tactic revolve around that foundation.
In that regard, coaches Winfried Sch‰fer and Miguel Coley have lots of work to do with the Jamaican team. The elementary passing and movement were basically non-existent. The perennial problem of a dysfunctional or absent playmaker in midfield was crudely evident again. Jobi McAnuff, the man being heralded as the solution to that problem at almost 34 years old and on the decline. I think younger, more athletic, and hungry players should be taking over the fulcrum of the team.
The general reluctance to invest in youth has hindered the advancement of the Jamaican team. The notion that our young players are not good enough for senior football remains myopic. That elusive balance between youth, experience, and foreign and local players, is yet to be achieved. Things seem to be trending right back towards the misguided philosophy of 'the more foreign players, the better the team'.
I was personally bitterly disappointed to see that Hughan Grey, the young, locally based defender from Waterhouse Football Club, lost his place in the starting line-up. Grey was easily one of the most consistent and efficient performers coming through that Caribbean Cup triumph.
I know for a fact that even more foreign-based players were being pursued by the coaching staff for the Copa America and the Gold Cup assignments. If some of those players who were being pursued never shunned the call-up, then even more locally based players would have been sacrificed for this 'foreign philosophy'. That is a fundamental flaw that continues to cripple the development of the young local players and, ultimately, diminishes their potential contribution to the national cause.
My concerns supersede the foreign local dynamic, as the age of the team will be problematic in the not-too-distant future.
In a context where Jamaica had no realistic chance of winning the Copa America, should we realistically expect them to lift the Gold Cup title. While experience and competitive performances are important, so, too, should be the strategic exposure of and investment in young players
If the nation's football thinkers were looking beyond their noses, they would surely recognise this as a most prudent strategy. But therein lies our problem. Our football thinkers seem not to be able to see beyond their noses.