Sun | Sep 24, 2017

Follow the trace | We must improve our playing surfaces

Published:Tuesday | March 7, 2017 | 3:00 AM
Jamaica National Football Team during a training session at the Stadium East Field in January.

In the continued quest for a prudent and sustainable strategy of development for Jamaica's young football talent, one crucial component that keeps getting swept under the carpet is the atrocious condition of our playing surfaces.

It is perhaps the most debilitating of the many factors which have stymied the development of our young players. The football surface is the basic facilitating component of the game itself, which renders Jamaica's continued relevance in the world game nothing short of miraculous, based on the poor quality of our surfaces.

The execution of basic football skills such as trapping, passing, and dribbling depend heavily on the quality of the surface. Therefore, bumpy and uneven pitches add exponentially to the difficulty in the grasping of these simple basics.

There are a few relatively good football facilities scattered across Jamaica. The National Stadium, Stadium East, the Montego Bay Sports Complex, and the

St Elizabeth Technical High School facility are all good surfaces in a Jamaican context, but woefully inadequate when compared to even the most basic of training grounds in the developed football nations such as Mexico and the United States; not to mention the lush green carpets across Europe.

 

50% DIFFERENCE

 

It is difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the effect of the surface on the quality of football, but anecdotally, the difference in the degree of difficulty in the execution of the basic skills on an average Jamaican surface, compared to the average surface in England or Spain must be at least fifty percent. Meaning, all things being equal, players or teams would play and look twice as good when playing at Wembley stadium in England than they would look playing at The Compound in Harbour View.

This is a major handicap with which every young and emerging Jamaican player has to cope in an already weak and inefficient structure, and has helped to set back the rate of comparative development of our young players for several years.

It remains difficult to fathom that Jamaica, 'The Land of Wood and Water', is so inept at something as basic as building and maintaining some quality playing facilities for football. The cost of the significant amount of running water needed to maintain these surfaces, I have been told, is a major prohibitive factor. An excuse that is hard to accept if we are really serious about developing our football.

In one of his most inspired pronouncements made by my co-host on the morning radio programme Sports Explosion on Hitz 92 FM, Earl 'The Bald Eagle' Bailey has repeatedly asked the question, how much better would local premier league clubs such as Montego Bay United, Arnett Gardens, Tivoli Gardens, or Humble Lion look if they played weekly games at Old Trafford, at Stamford Bridge, at The Emirates Stadium or at Anfield?

Conversely, how would Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool, with all their millionaire star players, perform on the surfaces at the Tony Spalding Sports Complex, or at the Drewsland Mini Stadium, or at the Effortville Community Center? How much top-quality football would those big teams, with all their big players, play on our sub-par surfaces? I suggest all these teams and all these players would look very ordinary on our surfaces, highlighting how vital a dynamic the playing surface is to the overall football product, something we are obviously yet to grasp.