Orville Higgins | Ricketts deserves a lot more credit
President of the Jamaica Football Federation Michael Ricketts has been coming in for more than his fair share of criticism in recent times.
Many in media have been highly critical of him. What I find interesting is that most of those in media who have been his chief critics were persons not backing him when he ran for the presidency and, therefore, these persons' utterances must not be considered credible in the least.
My friend Alli McNab didn't mince words when he came out swinging against Ricketts in The Gleaner a few days ago, which has started a further round of Ricketts bashing. Does Ricketts deserve all that is coming his way? I say no. I say he has done enough in his 11 months in charge for him to be given a better grade than some of us are prepared to do. There has been enough in the plus column that is not being mentioned by media people with an axe to grind. Since others are not prepared to speak about these positives - either because they don't know, or they are just being wilfully perverse - then I will.
Early in his presidency, Ricketts presided over a FIFA summit in western Jamaica. All the big wigs of FIFA were there. Jamaica would have earned the stripes to host this summit for the first time, based on things preceding Ricketts, but from all accounts, the top hierarchy of FIFA would not have held the summit here had they not been pleased with him. At that summit, contacts were made, relationships were formed that should stand us in good stead down the road.
Under Ricketts' presidency, we have signed a lucrative kit deal with Umbro. My sources say it was a nice deal that in many ways bettered anything we had negotiated before.
Women's football has been in the doldrums for a little while. There was no women's parish competition for at least a year until it was brought back to the fore this season.
In those 11 months since Ricketts has been in charge, we have played practice games against Antigua, Barbados,St Kitts, Grenada, Saudi Arabia and South Korea. When we played Antigua at Sabina Park, it was our first international friendly in Jamaica for almost two years. Some of these friendlies were not against the most high-profile opponents, but for a new president with mere months on the job, then I do not see how he shouldn't be given credit. Some other friendlies and other competitive games are also just around the corner, I might add.
MORE SUPPORT FOR FAs
One of the things that the parish associations used to complain about is lack of support from the JFF. Under Ricketts' presidency, there is now a small standard sum that goes to all parish FAs to help with rental and other office payments. This is for all parishes, I might add, not just the ones that supported him. Ricketts was also central to the signing of a deal to build our first synthetic field at the Captain Horace Burrell Centre for Excellence. That should be a reality in short order.
Under Ricketts' initiative, a deal was signed with the University Hospital of the West Indies to treat all national players for free. A rehydration deal with Wysinco has been again formalised. Despite the public brouhaha, Ricketts got Whitmore to sign a four-year deal at a far cheaper rate than what was paid to others. The president made a smart choice, in my opinion, to not go for these high-priced overseas coaches, who often are not value for money.
Within the last few months the JFF has struck a deal with the Jamaica Olympic Association to prepare a squad for the next Olympic qualifiers. Preparations have already started. That squad will be the backbone of our team in the next few years.
Our Under-13 boys and our Under- 15 girls have both been involved in tournaments since Ricketts' reign. There is also a developmental women's squad, which was sent all the way to China for an extended time to help discover and prepare players for future national assignments.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why the witchhunt against the man. In the face of all I have mentioned, we should be giving the man a whole lot more credit. We are not in a World Cup Qualifying year, so we won't have the same buzz surrounding the national programme. That should be expected and understood. Why is Ricketts being so heavily criticised? What is he doing wrong? What is he supposed to be doing that he is not doing?
The man will never have the same charisma as Captain Horace Burrell. Very few will. Many seem to want to use that against him, which is just straight nonsense. In his own understated way, the man is quietly going about his business and getting things done. None of this means that there isn't room for improvement, but of which national association president can the same thing not be said? We should leave the man alone. He has been doing better than we are admitting if we are objective and honest; and has not done anything to be the subject of so much vitriol.