Paul Wright | Setting proper examples
The schoolboy football season has been winding down, with the Champions of rural football among boys, Rusea's High, scheduled to play the Champions of urban football, Jamaica College (JC), for the Olivier Shield, the decider, rural or urban, which is better. In the rural competition, the daCosta Cup, a league style tournament has been won by Rusea's. The knockout competition, the Ben Francis cup, has been won by Clarendon College.
In the urban matches, the Manning Cup has been won by J.C., the knockout tournament, the Walker cup saw J.C. again, coming out victorious, and in the recent all island "Champions League" the ISSA/FLOW Super Cup, Kingston College (KC) was victorious. It is now universally accepted that the 2017, schoolboy football competition was the most exciting and lucrative that we have witnessed. There have been however, serious controversies that hopefully will be reviewed and adjusted before the next season scheduled for the autumn of 2018.
The vexed issue of too many matches for our under 18 children, must be high on the review agenda. There have been suggestions that include a two tier format, with the better schools, as per their ranking in 2017, playing in the upper tier, while the lesser schools, again based on their ranking in 2017, playing in the lower. The top two finishers in tier two would then be promoted to tier one in 2019, and the bottom two finishers in tier one, being demoted to tier two in 2019. Another possible change would see the competition starting earlier, finishing later and the Super cup, finishing in mid-January. These are but two suggestions for consideration, but whatever decision is made, I hope that the committee that has the task, is made up of representatives from the Sports Medicine Association, the parents, and a school boy representative as well as the usual ISSA representatives.
When it comes to the behaviour of our children, a recent column in The Gleaner, commenting on the deterioration in the accepted standards of how our children should behave, said "Clearly there is an urgent need for massive social interaction targeting young people in schools and involving parents". An idea impatient of implementation. The sporting competitions involving our children, for the most part come under the auspices of the Inter Secondary School's Sports Association (ISSA), made up of the principals of the nation's high schools. I do believe that this august body has its heart in the right place, as it grapples with the desire to provide the best conditions for inter school competition with increasing costs and decreasing financial input from parents and the Government. However, this noble desire is slowly being hijacked by the capitulation to the demands of sponsors, with cash, or past students with the wherewithal to assist in providing the basic necessities of the different sports. This influx of cash and kind has been the so-called "god send" to ISSA, but it has caused and erosion of the basic and well established principles of accepted behaviour both of the adults associated with the schools and the children themselves.
In the recently concluded Super Cup, a foul was committed in the dying moments of the game by a KC player just outside their 18 yard box. The king of "dead ball" kicks in this year's competition Tyreek Magee, positions the ball to take the kick. The referee indicates, (quite clearly) that it is an indirect free kick, which means that in order to score, the ball MUST touch another player before entering the goal, in order to for a goal to be credited to the kicking team. The young "maestro" kicks the ball DIRECTLY into the KC goal, which as stated CANNOT be a goal. What transpires next can only be described as chaos. The JC supporters, when they realised that the goal would not count, approached the referee in a most disgraceful manner, necessitating the intervention of the police, protecting the match officials form possible physical harm. There protests were obviously disregarded as the decision of the referee is final. However the referees made a report and named individuals who they claimed were the offending parties. A belated enquiry was held, seemingly after the intervention of one of the nation's best and most vocal referees, the retired Peter Prendergast, an adviser to the Referee's Association. At the enquiry, the offending JC officials and the referees gave their side of the incident, and the Tribunal who heard the matter apparently accepted "oops" as a reasonable excuse and directed the officials to write an apology and supposedly let bygones be bygones. This slap on the wrist proved to be unacceptable to the referees, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) and most of the knowledgeable fans of the sport. The result was the intervention of the JFF in the face of defiance by ISSA and the resolve by the referees that they would not be involved in the finals of the Manning Cup if the two named JC officials were not suspended from their normal position on the bench. Good sense prevailed and the offending officials had to watching the match from the stands.
What message did all of this send to the children who attend schools involved in ISSA controlled school sports? The message obviously is: when you are the Managing Director of a large and powerful business entity that sponsors and supports cash strapped sports, then any untoward, proven despicable behaviour will be excused, with very little sanction. "OOPS" is okay, if you have position and cash. Children live what they learn. There must be fair, swift, and severe sanctions for anyone proven to, by their actions, bring the game into disrepute. Child or adult. Our children deserve nothing less.