Laurie Foster | Get Bailey while you still can, JFF
The recently elected Michael Ricketts-led Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has reached an agreement with the England-based sportswear brand manufacturers Umbro. It is said to be worth US$4 million. Starting in the year 2018 and lasting four years, the deal will have Umbro supplying gear to both the men's and women's teams.
Although it is a start to the federation's campaign to qualify the country for the next FIFA World Cup Finals, and considering a well-received post-election promise to announce its plans going forward, it falls way short of what was expected. For the country to have waited almost three months since the present regime was voted in, and now only this, is just not good enough.
The message coming from the sports call-in radio programmes is crystal clear. There is no doubt that a kit sponsorship deal carries great importance. However, this columnist's view is that the clamouring fans would prefer to hear of iron-clad plans to settle the dispute between the JFF and Craig Butler, the manager of Leon Bailey, the 20-year-old home boy who is setting the German Bundesliga on fire.
The word on the street is that Butler will not consider having Bailey or any other player in his Phoenix Football Academy representing their country of birth so long as Ricketts sits in the driver's seat of the nation's football.
This is an unfortunate situation and needs to be addressed and remedied. Butler is claiming that his two sons, Leon and Kyle Butler, have been disrespected by the JFF and this led to his 'no way they play' stance.
On Sunday, Bailey had a double strike against Hannover 96, which set his team, Bayer Leverkusen, into Champions League territory with half of the season left to play.
Again, he was dazzling, this time on the left flank, which seems to be his favourite position. When he came on at the resumption after the break and scored the pair of goals, it was as if he was saying to his, by then ecstatic coach, "How dare you bench me"?
Foster's Fairplay is echoing the thoughts of Jamaica's football fans that the country is in dire need of Bailey. Whether or not the words of Butler constitute a bluff, it should not matter, as the rapid progress of the budding superstar is staring the country in the face.
What is even more frightening is the theory, still to be actualised, that the Phoenix camp is home for many more players of supreme talent, who could make a significant difference to the standard of Jamaica's football. No one can, with credence, advocate that they be moved lock, stock and barrel into the Reggae Boyz set-up. However, is it too much to ask that they be invited incrementally, to show their worth under the watchful and discerning eye of coach Whitmore at practice sessions?
ROAD TO FRANCE
It has been almost 20 years, and several failures to make it back to what took place on the Road to France. Clearly, the current formula, if there is one, is not working. Jamaica, under the late Captain Burrell and his recruit RenÈ Simoes, took a gamble back then. They admitted to the fold Deon Burton, Paul Hall and company, and the rest is history. Turning to Bailey and some of the suggested Butler crew, cannot be, in comparison, that much of a risk.
Michael Ricketts, in his deft already-launched efforts to receive his own mandate in two years, needs to think on this. His stewardship of the federation might very well hinge on how he handles this stand-off with Butler and, by natural extension, the boys at Phoenix, Leon Bailey included.
Let's get it done, Mr President. You owe it to your legacy to clear up this mess. The Jamaican people can be forgiving, but this one could hurt you big.
From what it is worth and where Foster's Fairplay sits, they crave to have safely on board the skills of that player Leon Bailey, who is mesmerising people in the Bundesliga.
Does the JFF have what it takes to make it happen?
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