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Top-quality academy needed! - Experts weigh in on football development

Published:Saturday | December 10, 2016 | 12:00 AMLivingston Scott

The absence of a fully functional national football academy to aid the development of the country's best junior players has been one of the biggest criticisms the Horace Burrell-led Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) administration has faced in recent years.

Some local football experts even point to the overreliance on English-born players with Jamaica roots for our senior national team, as an indirect result of the federation's failure to prioritise establishing an up-to-date, fully equipped and well-managed facility, with all the necessary expertise that will enhance the physical, technical, tactical, nutritional, and mental abilities of the island's players, so that they can develop into world-class professionals.

In taking a closer look at the subject, The Gleaner sought the views of some of the most qualified experts, including Harbour View's general manager, Clyde Jurideini, whose club won the recent KSAFA under-13 and under-15 competitions; Rudolph Speid, whose Cavaliers has dominated youth football in KSAFA over the last 10 years; and national under-15 coach Aaron Lawrence, who runs his Aaron Lawrence Academy out of Manning High School in Westmoreland and who also manages the Real Madrid Academy in Montego Bay.

Speid is one of those who believe that the JFF's refusal to focus on youth development has led to the influx of less-than-average England-born players into our senior team, and he believes it is about time that things are put in place to fast-track the advancement of the nation's most popular sport.

"We haven't been putting in the resources to train local players to perform at an international level in football like we have done in other sports. You must have a national football academy. In developed football nations, they have academies all over their country," said Speid.

The former KSAFA boss proposed that the federation establish parish, county and national academies, with the best from each parish to be drafted into the regional academies, while the best from each region would be selected for national training.




Harbour View's Jurideini agrees that the lack of confidence national coaches have had in our senior local-bred players for national team selection is a result of not having a formal development structure for young, local talent.

"It's important to have a national academy typically to supply the national teams. An academy is essential. It's the basis on which young players are introduced, coached, and directed into a developmental system. I don't think not having one (academy) has helped. Our football would improve had there been a formal structure designed to play the game in a professional way. So we have suffered because we could have developed a bit more, but we have a bastardise football structure in Jamaica," he commented.

Lawrence, a former national goalkeeper, believes the onus should be on the clubs to develop their structures and their players as the clubs and not the JFF should be responsible for nurturing young, local talent.

"We just have to find a way to get Jamaica's football back on track, and the best way to do that is by having academies. Clubs should take the initiative, not the JFF. When players come to the national programme, we should just enhance their movement and their organisation, not teach them how to head or kick a ball," Lawrence argued.