Mon | Aug 21, 2017

Follow The Trace | Totally Missing The Point

Published:Tuesday | January 24, 2017 | 1:00 AM
Boys’ Town’s Shamar Nicholson (left), who was recently called up to the national senior men’s team, challenging Deno Schaffe of UWI FC for an aerial ball in a recent Red Stripe Premier League game.

The discussions and actions across the local football fraternity in recent weeks, regarding the call for the infusion of more young players in the national senior set-up, have confirmed that many persons are totally missing the point.

The basic and fundamental notion of identifying and indulging the very best of our young players at senior national level is being rejected by those who I think, by and large, lack the vision and foresight to understand the medium- to long-term potential of making this kind of strategic investment.

In the books of the naive and ignorant, an 18 or a 19-year-old is very young in football, but in real and progressive football cultures, a 19-year-old is a 'big man' in football. For the persons who believe that 18 and 19-year-olds are merely amateur schoolboys, it will be difficult for them to fathom youngsters at this age being included even in a local-based training squad for a couple of friendly internationals. Such is the crippling short-sightedness that's been shadowing these discussions.

Without even realising it, the dissenting voices to the inclusion of youth are unable to envisage the kind of positive developmental effect that one or two years of consistent exposure at this level could achieve, once the right players are identified and persisted with. It seems beyond their myopic scope to accept that in a Jamaican system that is rife with imperfections, and that has wasted and destroyed hundreds of talented young players over the years. Genuine and strategic investment in young players could completely change the football landscape.

This principle here has nothing to do specifically with hyping or overrating schoolboys, it is simply about investing in our very best young players available; wherever they are and at whatever level they play, the principle applies. if our best two or three youngsters are out of school and are already in the premier league, then so be it. That is why it is encouraging to see players like Rodave Murray, Shamar Nicholson and others getting the call.

The reason schoolboys are perennially mentioned in this debate is because of the high profile of the schoolboy competitions, but if a good young talent is spotted in super league or even in a Sunday-evening scrimmage game and the talent is outstanding enough to inspire a call-up, then in principle, that young talent should be grabbed and nurtured. The fulcrum point of this principle is the IDENTIFYING OF TALENT.

 

Period of uncertainty

 

The Premier League clubs in Jamaica must take a significant portion of the blame for this period of uncertainty. Their reluctance to expose young players to the top flight at an early age plays a big part in the stagnation of the development of the young players. This has, over time, fed into the psyche of the football public and the young players themselves, convincing them that they are only good for schoolboy football and not even for our mediocre premier league, let alone getting called up to the national squad.

The knee-jerk reaction of national coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore of calling up of all of 10 schoolboys to the current squad is confirmation that Whitmore himself is totally missing the point. That is typical pandering without conviction. Calling 10 schoolboys to the squad can only make sense if Whitmore truly believes in the quality of these players and will stick with them for the long haul. If, as suspected, these selections turn out to be tokenism and pandering, and most of these 10 schoolboys will never receive a second call- up, then the principle would have been totally betrayed.

The general and utter confusion about how to manage the introduction of young players into the system is an index of how poorly we have grasped this very basic principle of the sport of football. Investment in youth is standard procedure in football all over the world.

For far too long, we have had it totally twisted in Jamaica. That is why at the seniors national level, in recent years, the federation has resorted to scouring the sidewalks of England and go begging second-rate, half, committed journeyman players to come and don the national colours, basically telling an entire generation of young Jamaican players that they are not good enough. The rhetoric of the past few weeks seems hell bent on maintaining that sad state of affairs, an eventuality that will continue to stagnate and destroy the game locally, while all these myopic thinkers continue to TOTALLY MISS THE POINT.