Sat | Aug 19, 2017

The Wright View | Prioritise local talent

Published:Tuesday | September 6, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Fabian Reid of Arnett Gardens (right) and Romario Brown of Reno challenge for the ball during the Red Stripe Premier League football match at the Barbican playing field on Sunday. The game ended 0-0.

Jamaica has been booted from the play-offs for the World Cup of football to be contested in Russia in 2018. The country was unceremoniously dumped from the competition because our team could only score two goals in five international games.

Since our foray into the World Cup Finals in 1998, we have settled on the formula of using local players in the early stages of the competition, then going overseas for any competent footballer with a Jamaican connection, no matter how tenuous, and selecting them to play, no matter what the outcome of the matches were.

This formula has failed us in 2002, 2006, 2010, 2014, and now we have failed again in the 2018 campaign.

We keep doing the same thing all these years and we keep expecting a different result. Classic textbook mental incompetence!

The tactic against Panama last Friday seemed to be high, long balls into the opponents' half of the playing field and then pray for a mistake by the Panama defence. After the first 15 minutes when the Panama defence effectively thwarted our blitz, the short, snappy passes of the Panamanians exposed our deficiencies.

The actions and thoughts of those who decide the future of football here in Jamaica now assume monumental proportions. We all look now at the coach and the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president for their thoughts and plans.

With great disappointment, I read in one of our daily newspapers the first response of our coach, Winfried Sch‰fer. As I read his take on our reason for defeat in Panama, the words of a successful US coach, Paul 'Bear' Bryant, came to mind.

 

WHO IS TO BLAME?

 

This coach said: "If anything goes bad, I did it. If anything goes semi-good, we did it. If anything goes really good, then you did it. That is all it takes to get people to win football games for you."

Our coach laid the blame for the defeat squarely at the feet of the players.

"Nervousness and unintelligent play," he said of the squad that he selected and persisted with during the qualifying tournament!

Our football president, Captain Horace Burrell, was not his usual "I'll meet with the coach at 0.100 hours re his future".

Instead, our now softspoken president hinted at the financial consequences of removing a coach with a contract that expires in 2018 and (unusually) deferred any decision on the future of the programme to the JFF.

Jamaica's football needs a vision and a purpose designed to DEVELOP our local football players.

The playing surface is a good place to start. Having dilly-dallied with the site of a centre of excellence - largely financed by FIFA - what we now have is a centre at the University of the West Indies where players who use the surface complain bitterly of its toughness and potential for serious injury.

Next we must look at the coach. The next coach selected MUST be aware of all the players who ply their trade locally. Some of the good ones have been awarded contracts and play overseas. The core of the squad must utilise these people. These are the players who when their playing days are over will return to the island and contribute to the development of the game.

How many of the players who played in our national colours in France have come 'home' to assist?

We must give our native-born Jamaicans a chance to be exposed to the best of the best in international competition, while being fully aware that victory against some of the more established teams will not come overnight, but with time, the natural talent of our Jamaican sportsmen and women will reap the necessary rewards.

Our quest for qualification in 2022 must start now. With a vision and philosophy geared at improving local football and not pandering to the now (proven) failed idea of a coach with an accent, selecting 'plastic' Jamaicans who only play for us because they know that playing for their domiciled country will never materialise.

Carpe diem! Let us seize the day with decisions that will develop our local footballers.