Schafer must manager better
The recent group draw for the Copa Centennial coming up in June, which pits Jamaica in a preliminary group up against Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela, has ignited pleasant memories of the Reggae Boyz sojourn in last year's Copa America in Chile, where they narrowly lost all three games against top calibre teams Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, with the general consensus being that not only were they not disgraced, but they represented and performed quite well.
There were, however, some fundamental mistakes made in that run at the Copa America, followed by their run in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, where they historically got to the final.
However, the very next game they played after than run was the crucial first round World Cup qualifier at home against lowly Nicaragua. Three of our key players; Wes Morgan, Jobi McAnuff and Gareth McCleary were missing in action, injured and or fatigued. Jamaica went on to lose that game after going down 3-0 and were on the brink of World Cup elimination at the very first hurdle.
This was absolutely poor and naive resource management by coach Winfred Schafer and the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF). World Cup qualifying must be the priority with every other game and or tournament serving as part of the preparation process.
Schafer basically ran the players into the ground at the Copa and the Gold Cup and subsequently turned out a weakened and jaded team for the first round of World Cup qualifying. Older players such as Morgan and McAnuff were overused and overworked in those tournaments with conventional football wisdom suggesting that was gross mismanagement on the part of Schafer, as these were key players to the team's success and should have been handled with 'kids gloves' and deployed instead in tip-top shape in the high priority World Cup qualifying assignments.
local based players
I have long advocated for the systematic infusion of our best young local based players into the national senior set-up in order to create a wider pool of players overtime for exactly these types of circumstances.
If that philosophy was pursued with conviction and the belief that there are qualities that local based players can bring to improve the senior team and the very best of players were being exposed and invested in over the past two or three years, those players would be better and more complete players today and better prepared for international duty.
With the clear and present danger of fixture congestion and overwork issues with the overseas-based players, in addition to the understandable injury and fatigue concerns from the clubs of these players, Schafer really had no choice but to finally select a local core of players all be it very late in the proceedings. If, however, as I suspect he does not truly believe in the quality of the local players, then he will hardly deploy them as he should, which would leave us very much back at square one with himself and Captain Horace Burrell more than likely heading off to England to continue begging unwilling mediocre players to become a part of Jamaica's player pool.
It would be far better for the development of our football if Schafer, even if his hands were forced by circumstance, learns to value, respect and believe in the quality of the best of our local players. There is no doubt in my mind that as we venture into this crucial year of football, that we can get quality playing minutes from some players based right here in Jamaica.
My understanding is that Schafer will be paid his overdue salaries in very short order and these are the crucial crossroads and the big decision moments in which he should earn every single dollar of that salary.