Paul Wright: Jamaicans deserve better
There were two very contrasting football results over the past weekend. Two matches were played at the National Stadium, one on Friday November 13 and the other the following Saturday. Both matches drew impressive crowd numbers and the results were a textbook study of contrasts.
The match on Friday was a World Cup Qualifying (WCQ) encounter, the first of the second stage of the competition. The team selected had previously done very well in international competition, doing well against some of the top teams in the world, then moving on to the Gold Cup in North America, where we finished as the runners-up to Mexico.
Of significance during those glory days of satisfactory results were reports of discontent among the players and the hierarchy of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), and in particular its smooth-talking President for life, Captain Horace Burrell.
We did get reports of meetings just before important games of some players threatening to strike if promised payments and conditions were not met. Practices were abandoned, sponsorship agreements either postponed or reluctantly attended and an air of discontent could not be hidden from visual reports of the team on tour.
However, after showing the Jamaican fans, and indeed the world, that at long last Jamaica's football demanded respect, what seems to be the real motive of the players emerged. They do not perform for the love of representing their country. They perform for (a) the monetary reward and (b) to show their skills on an international stage, thus improving their chances of improved football contracts.
Thus we had them abandoning the team in important matches for 'personal reasons', which ranged from 'being with family' to 'going for a visa interview'.
Thus Jamaica lost matches, tumbled down the international rankings, and came to being minutes away from failing to move to the present stage of WCQ.
Assembled in Jamaica for a crucial home match against tough rivals Panama, the same old attitude and thought process reigned supreme.
Then instead of levelling with an anxious public about the truth behind a delayed practice at 'The Office', our arrogant leader of Jamaica's football behaves as if a reporter's questions re the protracted meeting at the training venue, where shouts were heard coming from the meeting room, constituted an "annoyance".
The result was a display of the worst football seen at 'The Office' by a Jamaican team in years.
Incompetence and plain "don't care" seemed to be the order of the day. Thus: Panama 2 Jamaica 0. So it is on to Haiti, with again one of our key players not on the trip for 'personal reasons'.
The Reggae Boyz, when focused and ready, have the skills to bounce back and still qualify for the World Cup Finals in 2018. But the question to be answered is this: How long will the public be prepared to put up with repeated displays of disrespect from players and, President while hoping against hope that we will qualify for Russia?
FLOW Super Cup
On Saturday, November 14, at the same venue of the previous night's debacle, the final of the FLOW Super Cup was played between St George's College (StGC) and Jamaica College (JC). This time, the match was played by members of two teams (schoolboys) who gave their all for coach and school. Fans were treated to a match of such quality that spectators watched open mouth, in awe as StGC displayed skills that drew comparison to the great Barcelona! Well done, StGC!
This display re-emphasises the point that our own local footballers, if given the chance, coaching, and exposure, can be groomed and trained to be a force to be reckoned with in global football
If those in administration with the ability to think outside of their own financial well-being could identify a squad of young local ballers and keep them together in a year-long training and playing group, then we can qualify for another senior World Cup Finals.
The present "formula" has consistently failed and will fail again, until we give our home-grown talent a chance.
It can be done; however, not with the present hierarchy of the JFF.
They have shown, time and time again, that as long as they are rewarded with trips and cash, nothing will change. We the football fans of Jamaica deserve better.