Oral Tracey | Time we value our own
If an anonymous Europe-born football coach, maybe a German, an Englishman, or an Italian, took it upon himself to journey to the Caribbean, yielding to the lure of our rich and diverse culture and, of course, he takes the opportunity to indulge his passion of football coaching, this undistinguished football coach then lands a job as the national coach of a team that is similar in status to Jamaica - maybe Haiti or Trinidad and Tobago.
This still nameless coach then proceeds over a span of four to five years to get some reasonable results against regional powerhouses such as Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, et cetera. He then guides his charges, against all the odds, to Caribbean championship glory and eventually pilots his team to the CONACACAF Gold Cup final, after which, this still unknown European coach decides to apply for the job as head coach of the Reggae Boyz.
With that resume, the question is, would the Jamaica Football Federation offer this coach US$3,000 (JFF) (around J$372,000) per month? They would most certainly seek to highlight their financial plight, pleading Jamaica's poor third-world status and our inability to fully meet the demands of the market in paying this still unnamed European coach what he is worth. Despite all that, the JFF would never ever offer this foreign coach US$3,000 per month.
The fact of the matter is the last European coach who came to Jamaica, one Winfried Sch‰fer, was paid US$50,000 (around J$5 million at the time) per month, which is in excess of fifteen times what is being offered to current head coach Theodore Whitmore. This is downright disrespectful and, indeed, points to a subtle revelation of a warped, skewed, but inherently Jamaican mentality of always valuing foreigners more than we value our own.
The fact that we would seek to treat a foreigner with a worse or an equivalent record so differently than we would treat a Jamaican, reminds us where we are and how far we still have to go. The fact that we are prepared to tolerate a disparity in remuneration of a foreigner earning fifteen times his Jamaican counterpart with a similar level of competence nudges another reminder of an inherent and subconscious self-hate.
The Winfried Sch‰fer comparison cannot be avoided. The German's tenure and what he achieved and failed to achieve are all fresh in our minds. Sch‰fer won the Caribbean Cup in 2014 and got to the CONCACAF Gold Cup final in 2015. Theodore Whitmore won the Caribbean title in 2010 during in his first stint as national coach. After lots of water flowed under the bridge, including the coming and going of Sch‰fer, Whitmore returned for a second bite of the cherry in October of 2016.
Above all expectations, he matched, and in the view of many, surpassed Sch‰fer's flagship achievement of getting to the 2017 Gold Cup final with a fully born and bred squad of young and inexperienced Jamaican players, dwarfing Sch‰fer's glory run which was achieved with a core of seasoned and experienced foreign-born and based players.
Again, it is utter and absolute disrespect to treat Theodore Whitmore this way. The paradigm shift in the sport of track and field from the days when every promising athlete used to trek overseas in search of greener pastures, to the here and now where the golden generation, led by Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Veronica Campbell-Brown and Shelly-Ann Frazer Pryce, demonstrated that Jamaicans have the skills, expertise, and talent to conquer the world. We all thought that revelation went a far way in dispelling the belief that foreigners are inherently superior to Jamaicans.
Obviously, the Jamaica Football Federation has not received the memo. Football coaching is still a results business and no one can argue that Theodore Whitmore, in this his second stint at the helm, has generally gotten favourable results in what was expected to be a long, arduous and uncertain rebuilding process. Having come full circle over the last two decades from Rene Simoes to Clovis de Oliveira, to Sebastiao Lazaroni, to Rene Simoes again, and then to Winfried Schaefer, we ought to by now have learnt that a foreign coach is not necessarily better than a Jamaican coach, as Theodore Whitmore continues to show. The JFF needs to understand and accept this reality and pay coach Whitmore, at least what is close to his worth, and thus cease and desist the ongoing disrespect.