Oral Tracey | The west no longer the best
The relegation of either Montego Bay United or FC Reno, or both, from the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) is imminent. It is all but a given that both will not survive the dreaded drop this season, with the shortest odds being on both former champions getting relegated from the Premier League.
Prominent western Jamaica sports personality, the former coach, FIFA referee and international cricket umpire Steve Bucknor recently diagnosed the struggles of the western clubs as stemming from a chronic lack of coaching at the youth level in the region. Bucknor opined that enough youngsters are not being taught the fundamentals of the game, with too much emphasis, instead, being placed, on winning competitions. Bucknor concluded that there are no functional academy structures in the west, and as a result, enough quality young players are not coming through, which is manifesting itself in the demise of the western clubs.
Other stakeholders from the region have also weighed in on the debate, with the pre-eminent school of thought emerging that the ineptness of the administrators in the west, in addition to the lack of financial support, are among the major challenges.
All are plausible diagnoses, but coloured with a tinge of overanalysis. The fact of the matter is that most of the problems outlined are not unique to the teams in the west. Indeed, many of the players representing prominent schools and clubs in Kingston and other areas of Jamaica are from the west, which means that despite the obstacles, the region is still producing quality young players. With the exception, one or two clubs which benefit from the strong involvement of their political representatives, almost all the clubs in the RSPL are struggling.
A myriad of intertwined factors is crippling the football in western Jamaica, but amid the quagmire, there is a massive elephant in the room which is somehow being ignored. It is a stark development that has swept across the west like a firestorm, totally discombobulating the value system of an entire generation of potential players and their support base. This particular dynamic has resulted in a major shift in the focus, attitude, and general ambitions of the average youngster in western Jamaica. Suffice to say, the long, arduous, uncertain, and sometimes unforgiving path of semi-professional football is not as appealing as these more instant, lucrative and nefarious options.
Another reality worth pondering is that during the glory days of western football, when Seba, Wadadah, and Reno ruled the roost, even up to the recent success of Montego Bay United, all of these clubs in the period of their success were characterised by strong, resourceful individual ‘one man’ ownership, instead of being properly structured organisations. Therefore, the fortunes of the clubs fluctuated with the fortunes of these individuals with very little, if any, structure left in place.
Western stakeholders must take the bulk of the blame for the demise of the clubs in their region. As a group, they have not been able to get their act together. There is an innate fractiousness that continues to divide this relatively small fraternity. The concept of the merger of the major clubs in Montego Bay, under the umbrella of Montego Bay United, despite the initial resistance, seemed to have worked well for a while, but even that synergy seems now to be falling apart, as the West is staring down the barrel of RSPL obscurity. We do not know how long it will last, but for one reason or another, the fact of the matter is, the west is simply no longer the best in football.