Fri | Nov 22, 2019

Orville Higgins | Is Lamar Walker a professional or not?

Published:Saturday | October 19, 2019 | 12:10 AM

Lamar Walker has been arguably the most exciting young football talent we have seen in Jamaica for a while. He came through the Portmore United youth system, where he impressed all and sundry with his work rate, his dribbling skills, his passing ability, and his knack for finding the goal.

At his best, he has looked like the real deal when he plays for Portmore in the Red Stripe Premier League. Together with Nicque Daley and a stellar supporting cast, they got by everything in schoolboy football last year, making Clarendon College the first rural team in 14 years to lift the Olivier Shield title outright when they got the better of the high-riding Kingston College.

His rise since last year has been meteoric. He was included in the national Under-23 team earlier this year and impressed to the point where Vasco Da Gama in Brazil gave him an invitation to spend two weeks with their academy. His call-up to the national senior squad was inevitable. He was one of the goalscorers when the Reggae Boyz dismantled Aruba 6-0 on Tuesday. The sky is indeed the limit for this outstanding teenager.

ISSA RULING

He is, at the moment, still a student at Clarendon College, but a rule drafted by ISSA in 2015 deems that nobody who is considered a professional can play in its competitions. He is not able to represent his school in the ongoing ISSA/WATA DaCosta Cup competition. The reason, we are told, is that he is no longer deemed to be an amateur player. His association with Portmore and his trip to Brazil have caused him to be seen as a professional, and by ISSA rules, not eligible to play schoolboy football.

Right off the bat, I have an issue with that ISSA ruling. Why should a legitimate schoolboy be deprived of the opportunity to represent his school because he is good enough to be paid for his skills by a club? Why prevent him from playing for his school when his only crime is that he has excelled at his craft? Plying his trade with hardened Premier League players will definitely give him an advantage when he plays against schoolboys, but surely, Walker has earned that right. Isn’t that like punishing Lamar Walker for being too good when you stop him from playing for his school?

Here is where it gets more interesting, and, might I add, confusing. Walker is now a part of the national squad. National senior footballers get paid to play for Jamaica. By ISSA’s rules, he wouldn’t be prevented from playing schoolboy football if he was only playing for Jamaica. In other words, though he does get paid to play for Jamaica, that doesn’t affect his amateur status, but a contract with Portmore does!

That really doesn’t add up for me. If ISSA is against professionals playing at the school level, then that should cover those who get paid by country, not just by club. Being paid by country should not make you any less a professional than playing for a club and getting money for it. ISSA needs to revisit this rule. Walker was not a professional brought into Clarendon College to play DaCosta Cup. He has been a student there for years. If he has honed his skills to the point where others are willing to pay for it, then that should not make him ineligible to play for a school at which he is a bona fide student. Over to you ISSA.

Orville Higgins is a veteran broadcaster with more than 20 years experience in the field of sports.