Give locals a chance, says Dr Paul Wright
Last week our under 17 Reggae Girlz left Jamaica to compete in the women's CONCACAF Championships in the Caribbean island of Grenada. Our young teenage footballers had been crowned the Caribbean Football Union champions last year and after a preparation which included a training camp in Florida that head coach Lorne Donaldson described as "useful", expectations were high.
The pre-qualification hype suggested that other than the mighty USA, Jamaica should easily qualify for the next stage, which is the ultimate prize, the Under 17 World Cup. Jamaican football fans, anxious for another appearance of the national team in a World Cup Finals might be forgiven for thinking that this team of young girls comprised young Jamaican footballers who played football in this country under trying conditions, with the hope of representing their country in competition.
No such luck. The team selected to play in the first game against the mighty USA comprised of seven American and four Canadian players, who have legitimately qualified to represent Jamaica in this tournament.
No local-based player was good enough to make the cut.
The quaint and old fashioned idea of international competition being the best of ours against the best of yours has once again been abandoned in the desperate attempt to win. Apparently, development will come later.
Unfortunately, our girls lost to the USA 8-1.
Our next game against Costa Rica saw our young girls leading 2-1 before eventually effectively bowing out of the tournament by losing 3-2. Today we play defending champions Mexico. Hopefully some of our local footballers will get a game as there is no chance of our qualifying and there is very little difference in losing 1-0 or 6-0.
What would be different would be the fact that local footballers gained valuable experience in playing in a World Cup qualifying tournament against superior opponents. The lessons learnt in that match cannot be duplicated in a practise or 'friendly' game.
Jamaica's football is in crisis. That fact seems lost on the hierarchy of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), who constantly look overseas for talent when contemplating selection for international competition. Once you have an accent you are in.
What kind of system is that? How can our local players improve? Why are our local coaches, those who constantly win local competitions, always overlooked for someone who trains abroad. Why is it not possible for the coach of the Barbican women's football team who have yet to lose a match in two years been asked to coach a Jamaica team? Why is it not possible for the coach of Jamalco and other local netball teams asked to coach a Jamaica team? Why is it that the coach of the Jamaica cricket team, who has coached the team from first to last in the past two (or is it three) years not relieved of his duties?
These are questions that need answers. These answers will only come when we-the-people demand it.
I'm of the opinion that those in charge of our local sporting organisations have some other agenda than developing local talent. God bless our track and field athletes who have shown that there is absolutely nothing wrong with Jamaica. In fact, foreigners leave their first world countries to train here in Jamaica, while we the leaders of our other sporting organisations constantly look abroad for talent.
Things can change. Recent happenings give me hope. Swimming has seamlessly changed leaders. The other sporting organisations have leaders who are prepared to defy the courts, Prime Ministers and fans, while desperately clinging on to power. Let there be power to the people.