Tony Becca ON THE BOUNDARY
Monday, January 23, 2012 will be remembered, at least by me, as one of the best and biggest days in sport in this country, not because of medals won, centuries made, goals scored, netball matches won, or punches thrown, but as far as the move, the brilliant move, towards marketing Jamaica's sport is concerned.
As far back as 1973 when I returned from China after reporting on the first Asian African Latin American Friendship Table Tennis Tournament in Peking, now Beijing, and 1974 when I returned from Barbados and a Test match, I have been writing and talking about linking tourism and sport, about marketing sport as an industry.
The thought came about in China on the day Mr Pi, the Chinese liaison officer to the Jamaica delegation, asked me who was the prime minister of Jamaica; and it came about again in Barbados when I saw how that country, a tourist country, marketed their sport stars, their cricketers, for the country's benefit.
Mr Pi did not know who Jamaica's prime minister was when he asked of politics in Jamaica, and I tried to explain. He knew right away, however, who Herb McKenley and Arthur Wint were when he asked about sport and I mentioned cricket, football, and athletics. "Ah, McKenley, Wint, Helsinki, 1952," said Mr Pi, a smile lighting up his face.
Although Jamaica boasted past cricketers of stature, men like George Headley, Alfred Valentine and Gerry Alexander; and athletes of greatness such as McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden and Les Laing, that was just about the time when Jamaica had started to produce the likes of Lawrence Rowe, Don Quarrie and Mike McCallum of cricket, track and field and boxing fame, respectively.
It was also before Jamaica had started to parade before the world the likes of cricketers Michael Holding, Jeffrey Dujon, Jimmy Adams and Courtney Walsh; as well as track and field athletes like Merlene Ottey, Grace Jackson, Juliet Cuthbert, Winthrop Graham, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Brigitte Foster-Hylton, Asafa Powell, and arguably the greatest athlete of them all, from Jamaica and the rest of the world, Usain Bolt.
In fact, it was long before the arrival of other stars, including David Weller of cycling, Patricia McDonald and Elaine Davis of netball, Alia Atkinson of swimming, the Reggae Boyz of World Cup fame, and lest we forget, the bobsled team, the ice-skaters from sunny Jamaica who invaded the cold and the Winter Olympics with enthusiasm.
It was while Jamaica had hinted of greatness in sport, but long before the country had reached the stage where, right around the world, in almost every sport, including those foreign to Jamaicans, sports like baseball, American football, basketball, ice hockey; and sports such as ice-skating and showjumping, even Formula One motor racing, it had achieved greatness, true greatness, and had stepped into regions unknown and long considered unreachable.
So much has Jamaica achieved over the years that based on the achievements of its sprinters, men and women, boys and girls at the Olympic Games, the World Championships, the Grand Prix events, the World University Games and the World Youth Games, Jamaica is known, right around the world, as the home of sprinting.
more to come
And looking at what is happening in Jamaica, there is more to come, probably even at London Olympic Games.
Jamaica, however, is a poor country, up to now, and even if it can continue to produce outstanding and great sportsmen and sportswomen, even if it can continue to produce the men and women to produce sportsmen and sportswomen of class, and although it can export a number of the finished products, or near finished products, to the developed world for their entertainment, for Jamaicans to be proud of, Jamaica needs money to do that.
Jamaica needs money to develop its sports potential and it needs money to assist with the needs of Jamaicans, needs such as health, education, housing and security.
Although money is needed to help sport, sport can provide the money, and that is why Monday, January 23, 2012 may be remembered by Jamaica as the best and the biggest day in the country's sport.
That was the night on which Monday Night Football was born, that was the night on which local football was televised live to the United States of America and elsewhere in the Caribbean, and that, may be, hopefully, was the night when Jamaica's football stepped out on to the road to make money, to fund itself and to truly develop its players and its facilities while spreading the game.
With Jamaica's football, its club football, on show regularly, probably, hopefully, to more places than the USA and the Caribbean, the players, the officiating and the facilities will have to improve because they will be seen live, regularly, by a larger audience, scouts will be visiting Jamaica regularly, and football will naturally grow and grow and grow.
Because of this, Jamaica should say a special thanks to the Premier League Clubs Association and its president, former Prime Minister Edward Seaga, to the Jamaica Football Federation, to main sponsors Red Stripe, to all other sponsors and to all who are involved in the Monday Night Football.
Monday Night Football has opened the way for other sports, it has paved the way for other sports to invite, to attract the world on a regular basis, to come and see, apart from the sun, sea and beaches, one of the great things about Jamaica.
It has invited the world to come and experience, apart from the friendship of the people and the rum and coke, apart from all the other great things, the other great of Jamaica, where the stars, the sport stars, come from, where they were born, how they grow up, how they live and how they train.
At last, Jamaicans are talking about sport and how sport can make money for Jamaica. Who to tell, as it was in 1972, Jamaica may soon again have a Ministry of Sport, all on its own.