THE SCHOOLBOY football season gets under way tomorrow and soccer fans right around the country are looking forward to it.
Over the years, almost 100 years, the Manning Cup competition for Corporate Area schools and the daCosta Cup competition for rural schools have provided good rivalry between the schools, a lot of entertainment for the school children, the old boys and the spectators and the wish is that the coming season will be no different.
Over the years, however, boys who became men like Dr. Lawson Douglas and Dr. Lascelles Graham, Justice Howard Cooke, attorney-at-law Churchill Neita, businessman Peter Moses, Major General John Simmonds and politicians J.C. Hutchinson and Oliver Clue also played in these competitions. In fact, some of them were gifted and outstanding footballers.
Although times have changed, although some people seem to believe that the two things, sport and education, do not and cannot go together, the hope is that in the class of 2006, there will be not only some gifted players, but also some who are good in school and who, like Douglas and Graham, Cooke and company, will go on to take their places in the wider society.
And that is why it is so nice to hear that the Inter-Secondary SchooIs Sports Association (ISSA) has taken another look at the situation and has decided to lay down the law.
The law simply states that those playing in the Manning Cup and the daCosta Cup competitions must have at least four subjects with a 45 per cent pass rate and an 80 per cent school attendance record, and that is more than reasonable.
As Clement Radcliffe, president of ISSA, has said, football can itself be a viable means of vocation for many of the students and as a result it definitely needs to be seen as such.
The headmaster of Glenmuir also went to say, however, "that our mission is the continued rounded development of the students under our care and while football may be an important aspect of this development it is not the only one."
Radcliffe is right on the ball.
Although sports like football, cricket and track and field, can, in this country, be a profession when these youngsters leave school, they have got to have learnt something while in school and they have got to be articulate.
Too often, some of our national players cannot even fill out an immigration form or a customs form. Too often, whenever they speak, some of our boys, who are supposed to be attending school, sound like they have never been to school, and regardless of how skilled they are, that, in this day and age, is an embarrassment to this country.
One step ahead
People who, for example, cannot read, or who can hardly read, cannot reason. In football, and particularly so as a defender, one has to reason, one has to be one step ahead of the attacker and, in a nutshell, that may be the reason the national football team has not improved over the years - why it is suffering so many defeats and, most importantly, why, in this day and age when it has become so difficult to score goals, it is letting in so many goals.
Football in particular and sport in general are good for young boys and girls, and especially in this age of professional sport, a young player with a special gift should be encouraged.
That encouragement, that development, however, should not be at the expense of his education, for while everyone cannot be a doctor, a lawyer or a successful businessman, while in today's world a professional sportsman or sportswomen is just as recognised, at least everyone who attends school should be able to read and to write, to add and to subtract.
For anyone who attends school, be he a footballer or not, the minimum requirements as set out by ISSA are more than reasonable and ISSA should insist that those requirements are met.