Fri | Nov 16, 2018

Paul Wright | Schoolboy football season mentally, physically punishing

Published:Tuesday | October 17, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Toraino Grant (left) of Mona High and Papine's Oldani Dunkley both try to get their head on the ball during a game in the ISSA/FLOW Manning Cup at Mona on September 29. Mona won the game 1-0.

The last publication of The Sunday Gleaner had a graphic expose of the physical abuse of our children that has gone on apace in this country with very little being done to curtail this activity.

What is difficult to reveal and expose is the mental and psychological abuse that is also taking place, but with the apparent blessing of the very institutions that are supposed to be mandated with the specific intention of preparing our children for a fulfilling and productive life after school. As part of the holistic development of children, schools should provide a sound academic education, as well as other extra-curricular activities, of which sports is an integral and vital adjunct to the overall well-being of the child.

To achieve this, secondary schools in Jamaica have set up the Intersecondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), an organisation of headmasters and headmistresses who, during the annual schoolboy football season, have to organise and supervise 86 rural schools in the ISSA-FLOW daCosta Cup competition, and 42 urban schools in the urban Manning Cup competition. Approximately 2,600 boys training and playing football during the school term, September to December.




The influx of more and more different competitions, and the changing of the format of the games by ISSA, in order to give the 'better' schools more opportunity to showcase their skill and organisational ability, has resulted in some boys playing as many as three 90-minute games in a six-day period. All of this while having to attend classes and prepare for exams.

In England, the English Premier League has attracted some of the best and most expensive footballers in the world. However, if a manager sees a schedule that mandates his team to play three 90-minute games in a six-day window, the howls of protest and subsequent refusal to play would and has forced the organisers of the competition to take the health and welfare of the players more seriously than the expected financial windfall from playing the games. Professional, adult footballers will not allow it, so why is this allowed among the children of our nation? This punishing schedule is a form of mental, physical and psychological abuse that should be, MUST BE, exposed and should receive the same universal condemnation that the pictures in The Sunday Gleaner have elicited.

In Indonesia, a local goalkeeper, Choirul Huda, playing for his club Persela Lamongan, collided with a teammate while going for a ball in a match on Sunday. According to the club's website, the club's physician states that the goalkeeper suffered what initially appeared to be appeared to be head and neck injuries. However, the report from the attending physician at the Lamongan Hospital in East Java states that the collision resulted in Huda stopping breathing and suffered a cardiac arrest. A video tape of the tragic event did not reveal the first responders to the injury examining the injured goalie with a stethoscope, leaving one to wonder, what if? What if the first responders were trained in cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and were able to make the correct diagnosis on the field? Are we prepared, here in Jamaica, to respond in this basic manner for on-the-field trauma during ISSA-controlled contact sports? Or will we wait for another tragedy before insisting that our children have trained (in CPR) medics, coaches, referees, and/or teachers present at EVERY game organised under ISSA's control?