Nodley Wright, Freelance Writer
DISAPPOINTMENT CAN make or break an individual. On encountering disappointment, some pack it in, while others redouble their efforts to achieve success. Former national footballer Paul 'Tegat' Davis did both.
The man, who became a household name locally in the 1980s and a part of the 1990s, dreamt of playing football at the highest level. For him the highest level would have been the World Cup and playing professionally in Europe. A four-year spell in Israel which was aborted by the Persian Gulf War in 1991 was the highlight of his professional career.
"During my whole career of football I wanted to be the best footballer that Jamaica has ever seen. It was also my dream to play in the World Cup and to play professionally in England and so forth," said Davis.
Jamaica were to create history by becoming the first English-speaking Caribbean country to qualify for the World Cup finals in 1998 but Davis was not to be a part of that. Six years on, the wounds of disappointment are still raw for the man seen by many as the country's best pure striker for some time.
"I think it is the whole politics in Jamaica. When you reach a certain age people say you are an old man and I think when Rene (Simoes) came he changed the whole thing in that he wanted to make new stars, but up until that point I had not given up because I still thought and believed that I should have played in the World Cup," Davis said.
"I was in good condition, playing the best football of my life, winning the National Premier League for Seba United," said the man whose 19 goals that year made him the third leading scorer in the country.
Being chosen as one of six players, who were not part of the official World Cup party to go to France did not make it any easier for Davis.
"I think I should have gotten a chance because when I went to the World Cup I saw what was going on. I was sure I could have helped the team, believe me," he said.
RAN OUT OF IDEAS
"(Deon) Burton and those guys, they ran out of ideas. I think they played just to go to the World Cup and once most of them got there they just could do nothing more. What Jamaica lacked most in the World Cup was finishing," he said.
Even at his then age of 37, he was convinced that he could have done the job.
"What should determine whether someone plays or not is performance. Cameroon's Roger Milla played at 38 and then came back at 42 and scored. We in Jamaica could accept the Roger Millas playing at that age but look at their own differently," he opined.
However, Davis said that 1998 World Cup scenario which he described as his lowest point in football "spurred me on" to his new dream, that of one day coaching Jamaica's national football team. "Right after I saw the foolishness of France 1998, I decided that I was going into coaching. This guy, Sean Desouza, had asked me before if I wanted to coach the William Knibb football team and I said no but I took it up after the World Cup."
Davis, now 42, said he made a pledge to himself to change the parish's football. Both Trelawny teams, Village and Invaders, owe their presence in the NPL to Davis. The man himself is not shy about saying so either.
"I have to take a little credit for the fact that Trelawny's football is now flourishing," he said matter-of-factly.
"I have been at Invaders for about a year an a half and in that time I have taken them from Division Two to the NPL in one year," he continued.
That was done in time for the 2003/2004 football season. He performed a similar miracle for Village United in 2000. At the schoolboy level he has transformed William Knibb into a credible force in the daCosta Cup in the close to six years he has been with them.
The NPL and schoolboy football is just starters for 'Tegat'. He wants much more.
"I want to go to the highest level. As a coach my dream is to guide the national team."
While being confident in his ability, Davis knows himself. He knows he is not ready for that task just yet.
"Before doing that though I think I need some time out of Jamaica. Maybe a year or a little less to do some coaching courses and come back. I think the coaches here lack maybe vision and new things (ideas) to bring into the football," he explained.
If he was not aware of that before, it would have been brought home to him by the operations of the Uruguayan football coach in February when Davis said he sat and watched the coach taking the players through their paces before a friendly international against Jamaica.
"When I sat the other night and watched the Uruguay team train, it told me that coaches in Jamaica need to go out and get more ideas and come back.
"It is not like those guys are way ahead of us you know, but they are ahead of us in strategic plays," he said.
What also came to him, Davis added, is that if coaches were getting a similar or greater degree of exposure than the national players in countries such as England, that would improve local football
"We are not exporting any coaches and I think we need to start doing that. With that our football would grow and we would not have to be looking for foreign coaches.
"Brazil does not look for a foreign coach, Germany does not look for a foreign coach. They are selling coaches. We need to get ourselves to that level," said Davis who scored 34 goals in 87 games for Jamaica.
While some players are moving abroad to play professionally, the general attitude and thinking of most local players could do with some improvement.
"Players on a whole here have the wrong attitude, thinking that they are stars already and more emphasis on the money to be made from football rather than on the craft of the game.
"That is one of the things why the football has really fallen down and if I as a coach can get the opportunity to go away come back with that professionalism and then get the endorsement of the private sector, I am confident I can do a good job," Davis concluded.
Based on what he has achieved so far one would not be wise to bet against him.