Oral Tracey | Jamaica's give-a-bly culture
The now-infamous lockout or refusal of entry of national senior football team head coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore at a recent ISSA-FLOW Super Cup double header at the Montego Bay Sports Complex, and the ensuing controversy that erupted, are, to my mind, instructive indices of what is right and wrong with Jamaica.
There are some who opined that Tappa should have got a 'Bly' from the security personnel, who should have used their discretion because he is the national football coach. They argue that he needed no accreditation or special arrangement to be made for him to enter any stadium to watch any level of football in Jamaica. However, there are others who understand the simple decency and wisdom in adhering to the proper protocol and international best practices.
On the weekend in question, I took that drive myself to the VIP area at the Montego Bay Sports Complex for the same event before securing my accreditation. I was politely told by a gentleman at the gate, whom I know, and who knows me well : "Mr Tracey, we are sorry, but you cannot enter without your VIP sticker and your armband." In full appreciation that the security team was simply doing its job, I simply put my vehicle in reverse, parked a few metres from the gate, took out my phone and made the relevant call. Within two to three minutes, my VIP sticker and my armband were delivered and I entered the venue without any hassle.
I am obviously not the national senior football coach, but the very simple principle applies. Just like I was wrong to initially expect to be let into the venue without following the necessary protocol, Whitmore was wrong to put that decision in the hands of the on spot security detail, who are well within their right to stop any individual whether it be a television commentator, the national senior coach, the minister of sports, or even the prime minister of Jamaica. As per their professional duties, they are within their right to stop any individual without the proper accreditation or authorisation from entering the stadium.
This entire fiasco erupted due to the unnecessary overcomplication of this situation. Theodore Whitmore should have made one simple phone call to any of a number of high- ranking JFF officials who were right there at the venue, or officials of ISSA, or representatives of event organisers FLOW.
Ideally, he should have made contact before the confrontation, but alternatively, he could have reached out during the exchange as well. There is no one associated with football at any level in Jamaica that would be averse to having the national coach attending their respective events.
While this particular security team may well have recognised Whitmore and knew exactly who he was, there is no guarantee that another team at another game will identify him as the national coach and pay him the courtesy he craves. What then? We need to reconcile as a nation our deep- seated 'give-a-bly culture' with the international best practices associated with the modern game.
The fact of the matter is, that there is a simple and common-sensical way to avoid all of this possible embarrassment and inconvenience going forward, and it needs no major policy shift or rewriting of the rules. All that is needed are some calm heads and controlled egos.
There is no way that England senior team coach Gareth Southgate just randomly turns up at a Premier League clash between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge and goes to the gate for a face-off with the Chelsea security team. Proper contact is made, and the necessary arrangements put in place to properly accommodate the national coach attending a big game.
We have, to a large extent, been spoilt by our bad habits and ad hoc way of operating in Jamaica.
Let us use this unfortunate Whitmore experience as a learning moment as we seek to elevate our game on and off the field. Let us aspire towards operating with the kind of sophistication and procedural order we constantly demand of our players.
Theodore Whitmore deserves all the respect that is due to a Jamaican football legend and the current national senior coach and should, therefore, operate at a level befitting his status, which should never ever involve him resorting to a verbal or physical tussle with any security team at any venue he is seeking to access. It ought to be much more professional than that.
All that is needed is that Coach Whitmore or his representatives make the necessary call.