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'Youngsters represent the future'

Published:Thursday | February 24, 2011 | 12:00 AM
Jamaica's young Reggae Boyz kneel in prayer after qualifying for the World Cup Finals in Mexico with a 2-1 win against Honduras, in yesterday's CONCACAF Championships quarter-final football game at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in Catherine Hall, St James.
An elated Sports Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange (left) congratulates Jamaica's Under-17 football team coach, Wendell Downswell, after the young Reggae Boyz qualified for this summer's Youth World Cup with their 2-1 win against Honduras in yesterday's CONCACAF Championship quarter-final.
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Burrell reflects as Under-17s qualify for World Cup

Adrian Frater, News Editor

WESTERN BUREAU:

Amid the excitement generated by Jamaica's qualification for this summer's FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Mexico, there was much sober reflection on the path of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), as its hierarchy contemplate the way forward.

"We are going to require a lot of help from both Government and the private sector if we are to achieve the objectives that we have for these youngsters," stated JFF president, Captain Horace Burrell. "Part of the plan is to keep them together as a unit, and that is going to take some financing."

With schooling likely to be impacted by the players staying together in camps, Burrell said the JFF will have to find the resources to bring in tutors so that the players' academic performance do not suffer.

He also noted that Jamaica now have a solid core of young players, which the nation needs to nurture towards greatness.

"These youngsters represent the future of national football ... if we work with them and they progress as we hope, they could be the ones to take us back to a senior World Cup," said Burrell. "I am truly happy and pleased with what I have seen in these youngsters and it makes me real hopeful for the future."

Howard McIntosh, head of the JFF's technical committee, feels the success of the youngsters is a reflection on the technical programme, which is geared towards creating a new philosophy for the nation's football.

"Success here shows that the technical programme is working and that is a very good sign, but we need to realise that the work has just began," said McIntosh. "We are also looking at qualifying a team for the Under-20 World Cup as well as creating a good impression at the Gold Cup. We are now looking at completing the technical centre at the University of the West Indies with a view of making the programme even stronger."

Veteran coach Bradley Stewart believes that the success of the Under-17s is a reflection of Jamaica's immense talent pool and the quality of the coaches helping to bring the talent through.

"For a small nation with economic deficiencies, we must be doing something right to be achieving these kinds of results," said Stewart, the assistant coach of the national senior team. "We are definitely blessed with very good talent and it is clear that we have the coaches here to work with these players to get them to excel."

Kudos to JFF

Stewart believes the JFF needs to be credited for the leadership it is providing for the nation's football and the vision of the leadership. According to him, the JFF is clearly demonstrating that it has the capacity to lift Jamaica's football to another level.

Looking at the potential football has to unite the nation and inspire the people to strive for greatness, Captain Burrell praised the spirit of unity and national pride that he saw among the spectators, who came out to support the young Reggae Boyz.

"We saw it in 1998 and we are seeing it again. If we give the people something positive to rally behind, you will see us at our finest," said Burrell. "Look at the happiness on the faces of the people ... it is all happiness ... this is the power of sports and those who can help the development of sports need to take note of what we are seeing today."

For victorious coach Wendell Downswell, the success of his youngsters boils down to one important fact - self-belief.

"We knew it was not going to be easy, but we started out believing it could happen," said Downswell. "We put in the hard work, motivated the players and once they started believing we knew that it would happen."