Follow The Trace | The Fletcher Blueprint
The calls have been loud and clear, but until they get overseas professional contracts, the best of Jamaica's young schoolboy football talent should be playing at the highest level available - the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL).
Perhaps the very best of an outstanding crop of schoolboy players in 2016, ace Cornwall College striker Jourdaine Fletcher has begun to prove that point. He immediately made the step up to the RSPL by not just turning out for champions Montego Bay United at the weekend, but scoring a brilliant winner for the defending champions.
The willingness and confidence expressed by Fletcher to play 'big man' football, as expressed in a pregame interview, and as executed on debut, make an important statement for the way forward for Jamaica's football. Montego Bay United, with arguably the deepest squad in the league, in terms of quality, must also be commended for showing the vision to open their doors and welcome the youngsters.
The fact of the matter is that players at 18 and 19 years old are not young in real football terms. Therefore, it ought not to be a big spectacle for a player at 19 years old to be playing in our substandard semi-professional premier league. Eighteen- and 19-year-olds are active star players in many top football leagues around the world, but such as been the recent stagnation in thought and foresight that this has become the exception here in Jamaica.
Our praise for Fletcher and the other standout schoolboy players who have made the transition to other premier league clubs goes hand in hand with the disappointment at some of the other outstanding schoolboy talent who have either not chosen to make the upward step, or have not been given the opportunity by their club of choice.
ELITE YOUNG PLAYERS
The likes of Alex Marshall of St George's College, Jahwani Hinds of Wolmer's, Craigton Charlton of Clarendon College, are also elite young players, who, as a matter of routine, should all be playing premier league football, such is the quality they possess. All these players should at least be giving their football talent the best possible chance to reach its full potential.
A successful career in professional football is indeed a long shot, but it all starts with the intent and the conviction to go for it. This intent starts with self-belief, ambition and desire - qualities which are clearly in the DNA of Fletcher, who backed up his confident pregame utterances by delivering the goods at this now elevated level.
The Cornwall College striker was obviously not the least bit intimidated or daunted by the much-vaunted disparity in the quality, intensity and pace between schoolboy football and the premier league. His brash fearlessness and near naivety are qualities that are ideal for young players and should be fully exploited in the general gamble and investment in youth.
I wish Jourdaine Fletcher more and more success in his premier league endeavours and beyond. His success at this level will be vital not only to his personal future, but, symbolically, to a generation of players who are beginning to lose faith in their talents and abilities, and what they could achieve from the sport of football.
This stagnated generation of players desperately needs to be reminded that there is still a path to success. They need a new blueprint, with a star player such as Jourdaine Fletcher to follow.