Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Follow the Trace | JFF should learn from Butler

Published:Tuesday | October 11, 2016 | 10:00 AM
Pheonix Football Academy's Craig Butler
Jamaica's Leon Bailey of Genk celebrates after scoring during the Europa League group stage match between Genk and Sassuolo at the Cristal Arena in Genk, Belgium, on September 29.
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The emergence of young Jamaican footballer Leon Bailey on the world stage and the ensuing controversy it has sparked in local football circles is a clear index of exactly what is wrong with Jamaica's football.

Bailey's haphazard journey was plotted and piloted by his eccentric guardian, mentor and manager, Craig Butler, who is currently sparing no punches for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), especially as young Bailey continues to grab the attention of some of the big clubs in Europe.

Butler's eccentricity aside, his intent, his commitment, his belief and his conviction to create opportunities for his young players have begun to bear fruit, with Bailey's coming to age as a genuine star of the modern game.

The timing of the 19-year-old's emergence is a slap in the face of the failed philosophy by the JFF, for its perennial scouting of England-born players to represent the national team, instead of a structured plan of development of our young local-based player core.

National coaches and scouts never had Bailey. The seemingly inherent prejudice against local-born and bred players probably denied them the qualities that the top clubs in Europe are now going after.

The widespread myopia infecting local football authorities may have contributed to blocking the recognition of Bailey's sublime skills, his frightening pace, his passion, desire and competitiveness, qualities attributed to him by several scouts and managers across Europe, including former Dutch international and one-time coach of Ajax Amsterdam, Frank De Boer.

Such scant regard is symptomatic of a wider short-sightedness, rooted in an inherent lack of belief and lack of faith in the quality of young Jamaican players. That same narrowness of thought has evolved into a severe myopia that has seen many talented, young, Jamaican players dispatched into obscurity over the years.

The misguided and now discredited extremity of chasing countless mediocre England-born and based players with questionable commitment to Jamaica has stifled the development and emergence of an entire generation of Jamaica-born players.

Fortunately, Bailey was rescued from this cycle by the vision of Butler via his Phoenix Academy.

Say what you want about Butler, the fact of the matter is that he dared to have a vision and he dared to venture outside the box in pursuit of that vision.

What he did was not rocket science or a reinvention of the wheel, it was a simple and basic fundamental of sport; he invested his entire life in the unearthing and development of young players, proceeding to develop strategic networks and working relationships with some European clubs

If Bailey achieves anything near his highly touted potential as a player, then Butler would be better able to upgrade and intensify his operation. We should all wish him more success.

As difficult as it must be, the leadership of the JFF should at least look at what Butler is doing and hopefully they will learn at least the most basic of lessons: that football development is all about investment in young players.

A word to the wise is sufficient.