Adrian Frater, News Editor
GLORY DAYS: This August 14, 1989, file photo shows Wadadah's Neville Brown (foreground) dribbling away from Reno's captain Linval Wilson (partly hidden at centre) and Calvin Valentine (left), while his Wadadah teammate, James Edwards (right), looks on during the Western Sports Super Cup final in August, 1989. Brown scored as Wadadah won 1-0.
Except for the days following the tragic death of former Reggae Boy Stephen 'Shorty' Malcolm, which plunged the entire nation into spontaneous mourning, the level of despair among football fans in St James is unprecedented.
This time around, the state of unhappiness among football fans stems from the fact that with Seba United's relegation from the 2007-08 National Premier League (NPL) competition and Wadadah's failure to advance from the just concluded NPL elimination tournament, St James will be without a team in 2008-09 NPL competition - a first in the parish's history.
"The situation is really bad - words can't adequately explain to see what has been done to the legacy we left behind," said former national striker, Paul 'Tegat' Davis, who led Seba United to the Premier League title.
He added: "I can feel the pain of the fans because what is happening today is a far cry from in my playing days."
For most of the late 1980s and 1990s, St James was a major force in Jamaica's football, producing outstanding teams and players at both the junior and senior levels.
At the schoolboy level, the daCosta Cup regularly changed hands between top Montego Bay High schools Cornwall College, which won the coveted title in 1982, 1983 and 1995, and Herbert Morrison, which won in 1986 and 1988. In fact, Rusea's High School, from neighbouring Hanover, which won seven titles in that period, featured primarily boys from St James.
"When I used to play schoolboy football, it used to be an honour to put on that red and gold shirt and go out to represent my school ... it was a source of great pride," said former Cornwall daCosta Cup player Craig Oates. "These days, the players behave as though they are granting their schools a favour."
Oates, who played under the guidance of then coach, renowned umpire Steve Bucknor, said the absence of role models and weak administrative structures are some of the strong features of his playing days which are now missing in today's football.
"We used to have good role models in players like Durrent 'Tatty' Brown, Neville 'Bud Marrow' Brown and Hector Wright," said Oates. "We had these players to inspire us and in addition, we use to have excellent coaches and very good administrators."
Richard Samuels, a diehard Wadadah fan, who is usually quick to engage rival fans about Wadadah's phenomenal history - which includes NPL titles in 1988 and 1992 - has been a walking embarrassment since Wadadah's dismal showing in the 2008-09 NPL eliminations that climaxed with their 11-0 loss to Rivoli United earlier last week.
"Dem bwoy yah a de worst thing that ever happen to Wadadah," said Samuels, almost in tears. "All dem do is run down money ... dem nuh have nuh talent and dem nuh have nuh pride."
Jamaica World Cup hero, Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, blames the lack of love for the game among today's youngsters for the embarrassing decline, which has seen St James, which once had four teams - Seba United, Wadadah, Violet Kickers and Seaview FC - competing in the NPL at the same time, now at rock bottom.
"The players today don't love the game. The hours of morning we used to be out training, they are just coming home from dance," said Whitmore. "They have so many other distractions, such as video games and other things ... the love is just not there."
Amidst the current gloom and doom, president of the St James Football Association, businessman Orville Powell, has chosen to take a philosophical look at the situation, arguing that it presents an opportunity to properly assess the parish's football with a view of creating a more sustainable product.
"This is an opportunity for us to come together and rebuild the football from scratch," said Powell. "We have too many teams coming out of the same community. We need to look at the amalgamation of some of these team so that we can centralise resources, talent and support one good team."
He continued: "We need to start looking serious at development, so to that end, all clubs should have junior programmes as a nursery. The resources we are using to drive three or four substandard teams in a community could be better spent and having one senior team supported by an Under-17 team, an Under-15 team and even and Under-13 team."