Oral Tracey | Bailey a welcome Reggae Boyz addition
It is with a sense of Déjá vu that we embrace the latest cycle of news relating to Jamaican footballer Leon Bailey, who, from all indications, will finally represent the national senior men’s football team.
Having seen, heard, read and reported this particular storyline so many times before, my initial reaction was, here we go again. Within minutes, I was on the phone with Mr Phoenix himself, Craig Butler, and it was confirmed that the fences have been mended and the olive branch accepted, and Bailey and Kyle Butler have accepted invitations to the represent the national senior team and the national under-23 teams, respectively.
Even then, my guard was still up until the point in the conversation when Butler, in explaining the latest status of Bailey, referred to the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts as ‘Mike.’ The unusually friendly familiarity of Butler’s rhetoric was the tipping point that convinced me that all hatchets have indeed been buried.
Some local pundits and fans have been quick in asking the obvious questions, what has changed since the last public circus surrounding Bailey, Butler and the JFF; Did the JFF? finally meet Butler’s conditions, including a place in the programme for his son Kyle?
Really and truly, it shouldn’t matter who won or who lost in the battle of egos. The fact that one of the best, young football talents in the world will represent Jamaica is really the only relevant news. No single individual is a winner or loser. Instead, Jamaica’s football is the largest beneficiary as good sense appears to be finally prevailing.
Aside from his significant technical skills and his professionalism, assets that should immediately and directly benefit the national team, Jamaican football has been crying out loud for a star player, and Bailey certainly fits that bill. He is a player around which the JFF can market the national team and the national programme. Because of his skill sets and his style of play, Bailey is the kind of player that will excite the fans with his deft skills and his offensive prowess. More football fans, and even neutrals, are now more likely to leave their homes and pay good money to watch Leon Bailey play for Jamaica.
It is indeed better late than never as far as the resolution of this issue is concerned, and for the parties involved to come to their senses, mend all the necessary fences and forge relentlessly into the future. The onus is now squarely on coach Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore to figure out the best role for Bailey within the Jamaican team, to maximise his assets as a player. It seems quite straightforward that Bailey should patrol the flanks to offer width, pace, and skill, with the freedom to venture into the opponent penalty area as often as possible, but coach Whitmore will make the final call.
There should also be a positive trickle-down effect from Bailey’s presence in the Jamaica team. It should inspire and motivate other local players in and around, and even those outside of the immediate squad, to lift their individual and collective games, which can only be good for the nation’s football.
I would be lying if I said I was not concerned that at some point within the next few days, the notorious volatility of Butler would resurface and derail the process for the umpteenth time, but it’s all part of the risk that has to be taken. Despite the delay and the gush of water that has flowed under the bridge, as a fraternity, as fans, and as Jamaicans, we should all embrace and welcome Leon ‘Chippy’ Bailey to the senior Reggae Boyz fold. It is a development that is long overdue.