The Wright View | Local coaches deserve a chance
The month of June has not been a good month for Jamaica's football. The senior team the 'Reggae Boyz' were eliminated from the Copa America Centenario without scoring a goal and our Under-20 youth team was eliminated from World Cup qualification by St Kitts, a nation of approximately 33,000 souls (the size of the parish of Hanover). Obviously, something is very wrong with football in Jamaica.
Let us start by looking at the senior team. We are on the verge of being eliminated from the World Cup Qualifiers, just like the Under-20's, as only victory in our last two matches and some help elsewhere will guarantee us moving on to the next stage.
We seem to do well in practice games, while definitely under-performing when it matters most. We have a coach who seemingly is satisfied with 1-0 defeats, which seem to be a frequent post on his resume. What is most disturbing, however, is his now revealed bias against footballers, who play in local competitions.
Chevonne Marsh (also known as "Messi") got an opportunity to "try-out for a professional contract in Europe at about the same time that the squad for the Copa America was being selected. Despite vehement protests from his manager and mentor, Coach Rudolph Speid, the coach of the Reggae Boyz, Winfried Schafer, insisted that Marsh should travel with the team ostensibly to gain valuable experience. Well, despite playing the last first round game in the competition when we were already eliminated, young Marsh, did not get an opportunity to "gain valuable experience". Instead, the coach (and his team of on the scene advisers) selected virtually the same team that had proven in earlier matches to be incapable of scoring! To add insult to injury, he played at left back, a right footed player, who had never played that position before and who spent the entire game switching the ball from his left foot to the right in order to cross the ball into the opponent's 18 yard box.
Football in Jamaica cannot be developed if the players who live and play their football here are systematically denied a chance of international experience by so called "plastic" Jamaicans, who have never played locally, have a tenuous connection to the island, and who, once the competition or the match is completed return to their place of abode with no plans to return to assist in developing the game locally with their expertise.
At the senior level, coaches are hired to perform specific tasks. It may be to develop the local game or it may be to qualify a team or to win a particular competition. Failure to perform up to pre-arranged aims; result in instant parting of the ways. This is the norm for the coaches of teams, who were supposed to advance in the Copa America, but who on elimination understood perfectly that they no longer had a job. It must be so in Jamaica as well. The reported US$50,000 a month that it costs us to have an international coach is a substantial amount of cash to pay for failure.
The future of the sport rests with the youngsters. That is a truism that is hammered into us daily. When the Under-20 team left our shores for the World Cup elimination tournament, our hopes were high mainly because of the known quality of the footballers that were on show during the recently concluded schoolboy competition.
We were told by the coach and his assistant that the young Boyz were well prepared. Then came the shocker: Jamaica were beaten 2-0 by St Kitts and even though we won the last game against the Dominican Republic we were eliminated. I have been to St Kitts and have watched local football matches. The scene in St Kitts is that the coaches who prepare the teams during local competitions are the same people who form the pool of coaches to guide the team in International competition! That is not "rocket science". Those coaches know the youngsters and are acutely aware of what combinations work best for a successful result.
We have, in Jamaica, tried-and-proven schoolboy coaches who know how to win. How come then, when teams are selected for international competition, these same coaches are overlooked in preference for others with little or no experience in successfully coaching youngsters to victory.
Our best (arguably) school boy coach is seconded to the senior team where his knowledge and experience apparently count for nothing and our youngsters are coached by adults who have not completed one full season with a local schoolboy group. The results are there for all to see: continued elimination from international competitions. It has to stop. Local footballers and coaches deserve a chance to develop our football.