Foster's Fairplay | Chippy should come first
One can understand the furore, trending to mayhem, in the local football family, surrounding the 19-year-old Jamaica-born attacking midfielder, Leon 'Chippy' Bailey. The nation, on the back of a Captain Burrell dream, crashed the FIFA World Cup Finals party, as long as 20 years ago. Unfortunately, the former Army Officer and his team of administrators and players have not been able to repeat, despite multiple attempts. With the exuberant fans running out of patience and the continuing reliance on England-based talent, there was a craving for something new. As depressing as the current ego-satisfying games are proving to be, the skills displayed by Bailey show that there could be a bright star waiting to be a part of the resuscitation of the country's football. Recently, he has been signed by the Bundesliga club, Bayer Leverkusen, and this places him in the prestigious and highly sought-after European Champions League.
All that said, there remains considerable anxiety as to whether the young man will even lace up for the country where his game had its infancy. He has been a highly visible foundation member of the Phoenix Academy, founded by the former Jamaica College left side defence player, the controversial Craig Butler. To his everlasting credit, Butler has toured Europe with a number of the Academy's players, including Chippy and his son, Kyle. This has exposed them from early teens to an infinitely superior level of play than would have been afforded them at home. In the view of the senior Butler, this has readied them for consideration for selection to Jamaica's teams at all age levels. There are some in the football fraternity who take it even further. They are suggesting that Butler's wish is to have his boys drafted in with little or no display of their skills at training sessions. Any sane thinker would view such suggestions as unacceptable, as it is bound to upset the equilibrium among locals, not so privileged.
Captain Burrell, expressly sidelining or at least tempering the 'go for the English boys'' policy, is prepared at this point to give Butler a listening ear. That comes about despite past unsavoury issues between the Butler-headed group and the Federation's affiliate, the Kingston & St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA). It would appear as though fences have been mended. Happily so, as this would lubricate the machinery going forward to enable the best talent to be on show when the Reggae Boyz take to the park.
However, how willing is Butler to allow his boys to suit up for Jamaica? He has set an ultimatum which could prove problematic. It is three-pronged. First, he is asking for an apology from the powers that be for the manner in which Chippy was treated by former national coach, the German, Winfried Schaefer. He also wants clear guidelines as to the philosophy that drives the country's football. An extension to the latter is that Butler has demanded publicly that the current director of football, Vin Blaine, once responsible for the women's programme, should be displaced for lack of the qualities which he (Butler) thinks are pivotal to drive that process. To cap that, Butler is asking that he be given Blaine's job. There have been rumours, but no confirmation is available to this columnist that the demand has been withdrawn.
Foster's Fairplay finds the entire scenario to be untidy. It seems to be fashionable these days for the hierarchy of different sports to be wearing a tag of ''unwholesome actions.'' Jamaica, for fear of having its image smeared, needs to get it right. None of the parties concerned, needs the taint of the most likely outcome. Youths seeking to etch their own names on the notice boards of history, can through no fault of their own, lose hope, caught in the mire of big people missteps. It is not fair for their efforts, through hard work, discipline and the sacrifice of their connections, to come crashing down under the weight of these avoidable impediments.
Foster's Fairplay calls on the persons concerned, all named, to take the corrective steps and breathe some fresh air into the sport. The nation will not accept anything less. It can be done, so let it be done.
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