Mon | Oct 15, 2018

Foster's Fairplay | Well said, Mr President

Published:Tuesday | October 10, 2017 | 12:15 AM
Jamaica Football Federation president Michael Ricketts.

Foster's Fairplay is witnessing a new dynamic in Jamaica's football. With the passing of Captain Horace Burrell, midway through his four year stint, the constitution of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) demanded that the newly elected, Michael Ricketts serve for two years before another poll would be due. This could not have been what the doctor ordered for the Clarendon Football Association man.

The nation's football, despite the Gold Cup runner-up finish, is on a knife's edge. There is much to be done to steady the ship, and so little time available for the boss and his team to make a meaningful contribution. If that is not challenging enough to the programme, and the way forward, there surfaces the Craig Butler imbroglio.

Butler, who played in defence for Jamaica College in his youth, has spoken in stentorian terms. He is seeking a more pivotal role in the nation's football. Many will argue that he already has that, as he is doing an excellent job in managing the lives and steering the careers of some extremely talented young footballers. Leon Bailey, whom he describes as "my son" is just one. The 20-year-old now parades his skills for Bayer Leverkusen in the German Bundesliga, having been bought from KRC Genk in the Belgium top league for a reported €18 million. Eighteen million Euros is a huge amount of money and a record transfer fee to boot, for a Jamaican national. He scored his first goal a real stunner - at that prestigious level a little over a week ago.

It was predictable that Jamaica would require Bailey's participation to enhance the quality of the Reggae Boyz squad, but Butler is attaching strings in response to the invitation from coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore. Before the request for the young player received prominence, Butler was in the media rolling out some requests of his own. They were a hint of things to come. He wanted the role of a technical leader for the country's football. This was followed by his "throwing his hat into the ring," from which would come the interim President. Having not received a single nomination, it was felt in some circles, that he would have softened his position, and stuck to his original role of nurturing and enhancing some more of the awesome talent with which the nation is blessed. But giving up would not be akin to the combative Butler whom we had come to know.

Later, came the real bombshell. Bailey would be made available only if his younger brother, the admittedly promising Kyle Butler was also invited to join the squad, which was in preparation for the then upcoming practice match against Saudi Arabia. There was more. Butler, according to reports, claimed that there were at least two more of his charges who play their football in the lowly Malta League, and who could "walk into" the Jamaican team.


President livid


In a press interview, President Ricketts was said to be livid with what was thought to be a stick-up. He had responded to Butler's demand for Kyle, suggesting that he too would be considered, using the word ''boys'' as he sought to accommodate the younger player. Now was the time to confirm his boast that he was no weak fence, as was being suggested. He was bold-faced and exhibited an admirable bravado while confronting the Butler slew of demands. He made it clear that he ''called the shots".

Foster's Fairplay has no difficulty with the Butler agenda, as it constitutes that which is commonplace in any business negotiations. However, it should not have been allowed into the public space. Also, it is reassuring to know that Ricketts has responded in the way he is reported to have done. How could he have faced the public if he had taken a meek stance and caved in to the stridency that Butler was displaying.

As Ricketts pointed out, there is a process to allow Butler to survive and it should be implemented, if his stated interests are sustained. Threats from any supporting level, aimed at the sport's hierarchy, should not be tolerated.

Otherwise, the image of football locally, could take a nosedive from which there might be no recovery.

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