Mon | Sep 21, 2020

Laurie Foster | The clock is ticking, JFF!

Published:Tuesday | February 13, 2018 | 12:00 AMLaurie Foster
Phoenix Academy founder Craig Butler (centre) and standout players Leon Bailey (left) and Kyle Butler.

Time is running out on the brokering of a mutually acceptable deal which will enable the constantly improving Leon Bailey, the Bundesliga star performer, to represent Jamaica, the country of his birth.

Bailey is the flagship footballer of the German top flight league, who has scored eight goals and six assists this season and is the lynch-pin in his team Bayer Leverkusen’s bid to get to the lucrative Champions League.

His tough-talking agent in addition to everything else a young player needs to generate the supreme on-field confidence he exudes, is Craig Butler. After verbal battles with local football officialdom, Butler took a group of young boys who normally would be preparing for schoolboy competitions, all the way to Europe to display the skills he had taught them. It led to an explosion of talent now being exposed on the European club scene by Bailey and a host of other Phoenix Academy players.

However, there are hurdles to be surmounted before the wish that they be made available to Jamaica is realised.  The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), led by president Michael Ricketts, is being cautious.

Although he has not given in to the thought coming from Butler, that all the Phoenix talent could be moved into the national team, Bailey and young Kyle Butler have been invited to join the squad for a game to be scheduled on the next FIFA date. The timing was right as they were never going to be able to accept on a date previously hinted when their clubs would be in action.

This is what the fans, now logged on to Bundesliga like never before, are anxious to have. From the talk on the sports call-in programmes, they see it as a major boost for the Reggae Boyz. In addition, Craig Butler is being hailed as the fulfilment of their collective dreams. Too long have they been denied by their local heroes, the type of football they can only see once every four years when the world’s best go at it at the FIFA World Cup. Foster’s Fair play joins the football fraternity in welcoming the introduction of the Butler/Bailey/Butler magic to the National Stadium, if it ever happens.

Those last four words provide the dilemma which is at the door of the JFF and by extension, the country’s football. Leon Bailey is hot property. He is expected to spend another season at Leverkusen as his astute negotiating dad, listens to the offers which are now mushrooming.

Recently, Craig was heard to say that he was in contact with two of Germany’s greatest, Uwe Hoeness and Karl Heinz Rumminegge who would do anything to get the 20 year old at Bayern Munich, by a long way the country’s most prestigious club.

What is souring the pot and delaying the ‘’play for Jamaica deal,” is that the elder Butler is seeking a position of virtual control of the nation’s football. He is unwilling to have his talent exposed to a country that has no system for further development. He is not concerned with titles or displacing any incumbent but simply wants to have a big say in what happens after his boys are released to represent Jamaica.

On the face of it, his reasoning is understandable. The work he has put in and the challenges sidestepped to bring his squad to this point, must be worth something. Who is more qualified to put a cost on it but Butler himself?

The JFF needs to actively consider the Butler demand. Put a mediator in the mix if they deem that to be essential. Failing that, they would not be acting in the best interests of the country’s football. Jamaica is yet to see the remainder of the Butler talent but the manner in which he describes them, for someone who has put out a template in Bailey, it would be foolhardy to ignore the suggestion, even if it seems a bit “over the top.”

Come on JFF, the clock is ticking on this one. Jamaica’s football needs a new serum in its veins. Can you provide it or should another administrative team be sought?

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