Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Follow the Trace | Young players psychologically scarred

Published:Tuesday | September 13, 2016 | 9:00 AM
St George's College's Alex Marshall fires a shot, which Jamaica College's Ajeanie Talbot and Allando Brown try to block, during the ISSA/FLOW Manning Cup final last season.

Recent discussions and debates regarding issues of local football have emphatically confirmed the suspicions that Jamaica's development as a country and our advancement as a people continue to be severely hampered by endemic myopia, lack of vision and foresight, and effective leadership and forward thinking.

It has been nothing short of shocking to see and hear the short-sightedness that continues to dominate the narrative. A simple fundamental such as the investment in youth as the vehicle for development, has been met with such fervent and widespread resistance, followed by the most imbecilic and nonsensical excuses.

 

DISCOURAGING REMARKS

 

Our young players are not good enough. They must get overseas contracts. They are not consistent enough. Who will these young players replace in the current team? They need to develop some more. They need to go to the gym. They are not ready.

These are but some of the disparaging and discouraging remarks repeatedly thrown at the nation's best young football talent, all in response to recommendations that we invest more in our best young players.

By glaring contrast to other countries - blessed with not some semblance of vision and foresight as well as simple common sense - Italy, for example, just gave a 17-year-old goalkeeper, Gianluigi Donnarumma, his international debut. Nineteen-year-old Brazilian striker Gabriel Jesus scored twice in a recent World Cup qualifier against Ecuador. Portugal's 18-year-old midfielder, Renato Sanches, was a star performer in their recent European title-winning team. A 17-year-old named Christian Pulisic became the United States of America's youngest-ever goalscorer in World Cup qualifying, when he netted against St Vincent and the Grenadines two weeks ago. Just to name a few.

The shallow and predictable response of 'group myopia' will be that these players from these countries are playing top-flight club football, while our young players are not. It matters not to the wider principle. The salient fact of the matter is that these countries are investing in and exposing their young players, while we are attacking, condemning, and waging psychological war on ours, drilling it into their subconscious that they are not good, too young, and not ready, and are thus inferior to their counterparts.

There is a conspicuous and crippling inability to visualise and conceptualise the nuance of projected development and that it is for future rewards that we must invest in our young players and not for the immediacy of now, especially in a context where our senior team is filled with mediocre journeymen, who continue to be embarrassingly ineffective.

Identifying genuine and select talent at 18, 19, 20 or younger and believing and investing in that talent consistently by systematically exposing them alongside the senior pros to international football, giving them meaningful playing time over a one- or two-year period, can only mean the improvement of these young players for the future, ensuring that some short- to medium-term continuity within the context of our imperfect football structure.

 

EXCUSES

 

A million excuses can be found just like they are being found now, not to believe in or invest in our young players. It has been going on for years. This process has damaged, demoralised and destroyed the confidence of the average young Jamaican footballer, who will struggle to recover from the psychological scars left by these subliminal messages.

A clear index of this was expressed by outstanding young talent Alex Marshall who, at the end of a brilliant run last season, took the decision not to even attempt to play Premier League football, but instead indicated that he wanted to concentrate on his schoolwork and becoming a physiotherapist.

It is a sad, but clear, indication of the damage that has been dealt to the psyche of the young Jamaican football players.

The myopia and lack of vision is killing our youth. We are, once again, at the proverbial crossroads in our football.

Let us take the opportunity and venture down a totally different road.