Paul Wright | Our women’s football is being ruined by a few men
As our nation struggles with this monster called crime and our citizens seek answers to the so far unanswered question of how to reduce the number of our murders, sports appear as the balm that can (at least temporarily) reduce the daily tension that is usually associated with nations at war.
Cricket and football are the two main sports that unite us whenever we are faced with international opponents. History has shown that when it comes to sporting prowess, a Jamaican, if given the opportunity will produce performances that are not only pleasing to watch, but can and often defy the experts, who consistently fail to understand how great we are.
In football, Jamaica qualified for the 1998 World Cup of football, the pinnacle of the sport and in that competition, while leaving the competition in the early stages, beat Japan.
This journey throughout the qualification process to the appearance at the finals produced a kind of national unity and crime reduction that inspired the architect of World Cup appearance, the late Captain Horace Burrell, to doggedly use the same formula of success in the following years even when it was patently obvious that the formula needed changing.
Consistent failure and the lack of sponsors and donors eventually forced the change that was/is necessary for a return to glory. So, a new president was forced to abandon the quest for foreign coaches and players whose price tag made going local, mandatory. The result – players who came to national prominence by playing in our local leagues were now given the opportunity to play international football.
Head coach Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore and players who we knew and recognised from games played here at home carried this nation to results and performances that now, realistically, gives us hope for a possible return to the World Cup.
In a similar vein, our lady footballers under the leadership of coaches Hue Menzies and Lorne Donaldson, with the financial and celebrity support from Cedella Marley did what seemed to be impossible.
They qualified Jamaica for the Women’s World Cup, resulting in wild local celebrations and a welcome respite from the depressing reality of crime and bad news. So, having watched and cheered our first appearance in a World Cup, and now being in charge of another first, an appearance in the Women’s World Cup, one could not be faulted for thinking that this time, mistakes of the past would be just that ‘of the past’ and local female football would be the new priority with this group of players and coaches given resources and support.
Instead the Menzies/Lorne combination is no more, all because of a refusal to pay and reimburse monies owed. The goalkeeping coach is elevated to the top spot, and the team has not had a meaningful practice match with the Olympic qualifiers only days away. To paraphrase Bob Marley, ‘they disrespect our prophets while we stand aside and look’.
What is wrong with us?
Why do we allow a few men to not only scuttle our hopes of continued success in international football, but at the same time squandering our desire for a reason to smile and cheer as our sons and daughters bring us joy and relief from the “norm” of traffic mayhem and crime? A change in cricket hierarchy brought about by those with a vote has resulted in a change in how our best players are selected and treated. A change in football hierarchy will not come from those with a vote as the leader has given himself and the fellow architects of the dismantling of a winning combination in women’s football a 7 out of 10!
So, all we can do is wish the new coach and our girls who will go into a difficult play-off competition with very little preparation or practice, God speed! How much longer must we sit and look?