Follow the trace | Another great season
I was recently engaged in one of my now daily debates about the quality of the 2016 schoolboy football season. One colleague argued that the 2016 season was ordinary and boring because there were no dominant teams that were able to win three or four titles as was the case in previous years.
Needless to say, I vehemently disagreed. This, from my perspective, was one of the most competitive, intriguing, and entertaining seasons of schoolboy football, with the widest possible spread of winners.
We saw five different schools winning the six titles on offer. This speaks to the wider competitiveness of the Manning and daCosta cups, as well as the other competitions.
The emergence of the daCosta cup teams in the ISSA-Flow Super Cup this season broke the trend of dominance by the Manning Cup teams with three of the four semi-finalists emerging from the rural area, which is a complete turnaround from the first two seasons of the competition, with the eventual winners, Wolmer's, prevailing against the numerical odds. This again speaks to the comparative competitiveness and unpredictability of this season, which further qualifies it as a great season.
Another factor that I use to evaluate the quality of a particular season is the number of standout young players that emerge. In that regard, this year was one of those golden years, with the coming to the fore of at least 10 players, with real and exciting potential, spread across all the competitions.
Striker Alphanso Gooden, defender Jahwani Hinds, and goalkeeper Shamar Jemison, all of Wolmer's; Kingston College midfielder Fabian Grant; and Alex Marshall of St George's College are just some of the Manning Cup players that immediately pop to mind.
Jordaine Fletcher from daCosta Cup winners Cornwall College, Creggton Charlton of Clarendon College, as well as defender Fitzroy Cummings from Ben Francis winners Lennon High are surely among the best of another great crop of daCosta Cup players to show great potential this season.
Obviously, not every season will produce this plethora of top-quality talent. Again, my hope is that these young players, most of whom are between 17 and 19 years old will not disappear into obscurity due to a lack of opportunity and focus as has been the recent trend.
GETTING ADDITIONAL EXPOSURE
My information is that some overseas professional opportunities could arise for a few of these players, but short of that ideal, hope springs eternal that those who were not lucky enough to get that elusive overseas break will at least make the smooth transition from schoolboy football into 'big man' football by now graduating directly into the Red Stripe Premier League.
It is imperative not just for their personal development as players, but talented youngsters need to get exposed to the additional pace and physicality of top-flight football as early as possible in order to escalate their development into stronger and more confident players better equipped to take their skills and talent to the next level.
Schoolboy football is absolutely not the perfect foundation on which to build the nation's football, but competitions like the Manning Cup, the daCosta Cup, the FLOW Super Cup, the Ben Francis Cup, the Walker Cup, and the Olivier Shield are all vital in keeping our structure going - as imperfect as it might be.
We should continue to treasure, preserve, and support schoolboy football. For now, it is all we have, with everything else being tantamount to 'pipe dreams', 'lip service', and 'hot air'.