Oral Tracey | Pondor these changes, ISSA!
With three major finals down and three to go for the 2017 schoolboy football season, it is already an absolute no-brainer that some changes will be needed for next season and beyond. One such change is a further tweak to the second round of both the ISSA-FLOW Manning and daCosta Cup competitions, where the higher-ranked teams face the lower-ranked teams for a home and away tie.
The application of the away goal rule ought to scrapped and an aggregate scoreline used to decide who advances since the teams at this stage of the competitions actually play on neutral ISSA controlled grounds and don't actually play home and away.
The overall scheduling also deserves some examining, especially as it relates to the frequent game congestion in the latter stages of the season. The call has been made for the competitions to begin an extra week early at the start of the season and extended for another week at the end of the season. These changes should address some of the scheduling challenges without any major dislocation to the regular school calendar.
The most fundamental recommendation, though, is that the traditional Manning and daCosta Cup competitions be completed before the playing of the other competitions such as the Super Cup, the Walker Cup, and the Ben Francis Cup.
As it now stands, the overlapping of competitions is literally confusing the schools, the coaches, the players, and indeed the fans.
The pursuit of all the titles is turning out to be an exercise in football suicide. It has become much more difficult to win all four titles on show, which for the urban teams that would be the Manning, Walker, and Super Cups, with the rural area equivalent being the daCosta, Ben Francis, and Super Cups and an urban and rural area team contesting the Olivier Shield.
The recent trend has seen the quest by top teams for the Manning Cup and the daCosta Cup titles derailed by major breaks in the momentum gathered from the first and second rounds by the knockout competitions.
The players, coaches and fans have to endure a mental and physical roller coaster ride, whether they are winners or losers. Mental and psychological fatigue at this juncture of the season have cost several quality teams precious silverware after players fail to recover in time after having to jump from one competition to another and to another in a matter of days.
What the current situation is encouraging is something practised by even the big clubs in the big leagues of Europe with highly paid professional players and deep squads actually opting out of some competitions in order to concentrate on winning the major titles. This is simply because it is too demanding physically and mentally to try to win all titles.
It seemed much more ordered in the days when the Manning and DaCosta Cup titles were secured, and then the schools go for the bonus prizes in the knockout competitions and the Olivier Shield. The concept, the look, and the traction gained by the advent of the 'Champions League of Jamaican Schoolboy Football' is a definite show-closer.
Whether the Super Cup returns in its current format or is tweaked or substituted with another product, the concept itself has evolved into the ideal end-of-season spectacle. The glitz and glamour associated with this event over the four years of its existence, in addition to the substantial cash prizes, make the Super Cup a fitting season closer.
The Jamaican schoolboy football product is probably the greatest of its kind in the world, but it could be even greater. It is for all the stakeholders involved, especially ISSA, to continue to make the smart and prudent decisions, as they tend to do most of the times.