Orville Higgins | Forget about Leon Bailey
I have stayed away from the Leon Bailey issue for months. I have refused to write about it, or discuss it on any media forum that I am on. For me, the issue was becoming a little monotonous. I stated on radio long ago that some of the demands made by Leon's agent and father, Craig Butler, were unreasonable, and that the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) should never stoop to those demands.
No matter how good a player is, I find it untenable that for him to play for his own national team, certain other conditions have to be met, including basically having his father run the technical aspects of Jamaica's football. If this demand was being made by an overseas born Jamaican, we as Jamaicans would have none of it.
We would be saying that we shouldn't be horse trading with any player and his agent. In typical Jamaican parlance we would be saying "if him nuh wah play mek him gwaan." "Why the difference with Leon Bailey? Why are so many of us prepared to bend over backwards to accommodate him?"
Anyway, as I said, I have stayed far from the issue because from very early on I came to the conclusion that Leon did not want to play for Jamaica badly enough, and that those who were clamouring for him were simply beating up their gums or their typewriters for nothing. Despite the many issues which are cited by Craig Butler, a player who really wants to play for his national team would suit up irrespective of those conditions. I have chosen to write about it this week because for me the coup de grace was there for all to see in an interview I read that was done by espn.com. I have listened to Craig repeating the same sentiments ad nauseam but when I saw where Leon was saying it, I accepted that the JFF, and by extension a lot of the Jamaican public were flagging a very dead horse.
"At this moment, we are not achieving anything because we don't have a system (and) we don't know what we are doing when we are playing."
That did it for me. My advice to JFF is simply to leave Leon Bailey alone.
Leon's broadside against Jamaica's football continued " with players like that, I'm not saying they are not good, but if you don't have an understanding of system from even a little help from the Europeans or MLS players, then I think that you are just putting people on a pitch to play football with no system, you can never win a game like that."
The statement is interesting.
Jamaica were ranked 48 at the last FIFA ranking, better than we have ranked for years. We got to the last two Gold Cup finals, the last one with a fully home-grown squad, something that not even Simoes in his heyday was able to do. Our football is heading in the right direction and, therefore, It is certainly the wrong time to make a sweeping criticism like that.
Leon may well be the most naturally talented footballer we have produced since Keith Kelly, but after statements like these, I think he has effectively ruled himself out of consideration, unless he retracts those sentiments. I have spoken to several national players, who are quietly building up resentment against Leon.
Leon and his agent may not be aware of it, but this constant cricticism of the national programme has not gone down well with several of the national players.
We have already seen how Damion Lowe responded to Usain Bolt after Usain echoed similar sentiments to what Craig Butler has always expressed, and what Leon Bailey is expressing now.
Lowe was not the only who was seething, the rest have just chosen to stay silent. Unless Leon recants on the things he and Craig are expressing, then he would not fit into a national programme as easy as some may think.
The camaraderie between him and the rest of the team would not be great. Leon Bailey for all his talent, could in all likelihood affect the chemistry within the locker room and on the field itself.
He would most likely be seen as a pariah. The sentiments that a lot of national players have, whether it was intended or not, is that Leon and his agent are suggesting that the Jamaican players are not good enough for Leon Bailey's standards, and that he would be impacted negatively playing with our national team. The JFF still wants Leon Bailey, but The JFF has got to be careful.
You don't want to win a battle, but lose the war. Picking Leon may satisfy a nation, but it may well disrupt a team.