Sun | Aug 20, 2017

The local versus overseas footballers debate

Published:Saturday | December 10, 2016 | 12:00 AM
England-born Wes Morgan

After missing out on the final round of qualifying in its 2018 Road to Russia campaign, Jamaica's senior national men's football team has now not been to a FIFA World Cup in 18 years.

This means that the Reggae Boyz have had five failed attempts to qualify for the tournament since its only appearance in 1998.

Since then, eight head coaches have come and gone - with the team changing personnel in the role 14 times.

The Jamaica Football Federation now finds itself in another period of rebuilding ahead of the next realistic campaign for qualification, which, if successful, will see the nation making its second World Cup appearance in 2022 in Qatar.

Senior men's national team manager Roy Simpson spoke about the way forward for the JFF.

He describes Jamaica as a "young football nation".

"I think there's work to be done," he said. "Everything points to us not being where we want to be. If you look at past successes, qualification to World cups at the various age categories, we want to be more consistent."

Michael Hall, the former general manager of the Sports Development Foundation, says the JFF has preferred to take on a series of attempts to qualify for the senior FIFA World Cup, which he describes as futile.

He says that they are focusing all of their attention on this without identifying and implementing a structured plan to achieve that objective.

"The hiring of big-name coaches who know nothing about Jamaican players, and who, as a consequence, have little or no respect for them, along with the ill-advised strategy of recruiting overseas-based Jamaican players, who can't make the national team of their birth country, has led to guaranteed disappointment every qualifying cycle since the miracle of 1998," Hall said.

After last month's 1-0 win over Suriname, the Reggae Boyz have not only qualified for the Caribbean Football Union Cup proper, but also next summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup, to be held in the United States.

Federation president Captain Horace Burrell says that the team will now look to integrate more local-based players from Jamaica's Red Stripe Premier League. While this statement was met with approval by many local fans, The Gleaner sought to find out what this meant, not only for foreign-based players already in the programme, but for those who may have more quality than local based ones and a fair and equal chance of them representing the country.

Simpson says that Burrell's statement may have been misunderstood.

"Captain said we'll start the programme with local-based players, but that does not mean we'll forget about those overseas in leagues such as Major League Soccer," he said. "Players such as AndrÈ Blake, Kemar 'Taxi' Lawrence, Cory Burke, Michael Binns, and others are all local players because they started playing football here before going abroad to play for other clubs."

- R.P.