Oral Tracey | Not impressed, Mr Ricketts
The long-awaited 'plans' for the development of Jamaica's football by new Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts that football fans and stakeholders have been asking for even before his election victory on September 16 are finally beginning to trickle out to the general public.
There is a well-known clichÈ that says that first impressions are lasting, so let us hope, for Ricketts' sake, it does not hold true. What is glaringly obvious after the soft release of these so-called plans almost two months after his election is that Ricketts had no plans coming into the crucial position of JFF president. His plan was obvious and singular: to get the required votes from his parish colleagues, get elected and feel his way from there. That is precisely what is happening.
NO REAL SUBSTANCE
Ricketts went for the comfort of platitudinous clichÈs and unspecific promises without any real substance and absolutely no visionary and inspirational appeal. He rambled on about reducing the annual $20 million travel bill for the federation by some undisclosed strategy. He mentioned the exorbitant electricity bill which he is planning to somehow negotiate his way out of. He promised that an artificial surface would be installed at the UWI/JFF Captain Horace Burrell Center of Excellence within two years, also with undisclosed sources and strategy. The old hobbyhorse of the establishment of a national football philosophy also got a few cracks of the whip, but again, without any specificity as to how and by what means he is going to get there.
Mr Ricketts was evidently reading from a hurriedly prepared script. He was hardly convincing and never seemed confident until he reached the point in his presentation where he declared unequivocally that he was launching his campaign for his own mandate weeks after being elected to a two-year term and a full two years before his possible re-election.
The advent of Ricketts' elevation to the most high-profile job in Jamaican sport is playing out as scripted. He was one of Captain Horace Burrell's loyalists, who were notorious as 'yes men' and followers without any significant leadership qualities, at this level of football administration. Had it not been for the skewed and questionable system of voting implemented by the late Captain aimed at keeping him in office for life, which it eventually did, Ricketts would more than likely not be JFF president.
The danger of Jamaica's football suffering a crippling setback from the cliquish and parochial motives for the election of its leader is now clear and present. It is perhaps unfair to blame Ricketts personally for wanting to be and doing what is necessary to become JFF president. The real criticism must be aimed at the process, and the hard questions should be asked about the core of parish presidents who saw in their wisdom, or lack thereof, to simply foist one of their own into the job without any consideration of the pedigree and competence of their candidate.
HEADING BACK TO DARK DAYS?
It is downright scary for the genuine and passionate football lovers in Jamaica to be even pondering the football going back to the proverbial dark days. This, especially after the Captain's vision, foresight, and hard work over the last two decades opened our eyes as to what was, and is still possible for a Jamaica national football brand.
Ricketts might well surprise us all and evolve into a better leader and president than his utterances suggest. That would indeed be a pleasant and desirable surprise, but as it is right now, the nation's football is at a critical crossroad begging for leadership vision and inspiration. Unfortunately, it appears that voids still exists even with the election of Ricketts.
When the late Captain fell ill in the latter stages of his tenure, the common talk in and around the fraternity was that the football was being run on "auto pilot". At the moment the auto pilot system just went, and the football seems now to be in freefall.