Kwadwo Bonsu, Contributor
In light of the latest setbacks in Jamaica's World Cup qualification, football is truly at a crossroads. We can continue to make the same mistakes or implement internationally recognised development systems.
If we want Jamaican football to develop, we cannot continue on this course of using a quick-fix approach of randomly assembling a World Cup-worthy team. There is a great deal more to football than the road to Rio or Moscow campaigns.
We must recognise that modern football is a scientific sport, which requires a high level of education in order to develop the sport. The solution to success internationally is long-term planning, which entails an investment in our youth programme and the elite education of our football coaches.
We don't have to look far for some of the answers. Track-and-field in Jamaica has implemented a pathway to follow. They have made education the first priority. Many of the top coaches have attended the two-year programme offered by G.C. Foster and are continually educated by IAAF-sanctioned courses.
For example, when you observe our primary/prep school track-and-field athletes, their form resembles that of Olympians. In stark contrast, one is hard-pressed to find a daCosta Cup or Manning Cup team that can make 10 consecutive passes in a match.
Youth development is not about winning. Football is a cerebral sport that must be taught. Currently, most of our footballers can play football, but don't know how to play. It is evidenced by deficiencies like off-the-ball running. The establishment of football academies is crucial to this matter of playing proper football. There are many models worldwide to emulate and even collaborate with. The ASEC Mimosa Academy in Cte d'Ivoire or Brandenton Academy in the United States would be good places to visit and study.
In order to produce world-class players, we are going to have to drastically change our approach. Recruitment of highly qualified coaches, armed with at least a UEFA B licence or its equivalent, would be responsible for the football education of the students.
The JFF Level I and II courses are nice beginner courses. However, to compete and win internationally, we need qualified coaches at the highest standard. We, therefore, need to encourage and sponsor local coaches to travel abroad to get their coaching badges. This is what has happened in track and field, where some our top qualified coaches are recruited to coach overseas. We must learn from countries like Spain, Holland and France. These nations are renowned for their youth- development programmes.
Let us be honest as a nation. There are no football experts in Jamaica. No one can boast the proper qualifications or experience. It is also somewhat na´ve to think a team consisting of some semi-pros can consistently beat a team of professionals.
The standard of our local semi-pro premier league is roughly the equivalent of United States college soccer. Comparatively, the best players are usually recruited to play in the MLS or Scandinavian leagues. Furthermore, not one of our home-grown players is considered a perennial star player in their respective leagues.
We are not producing elite footballers in Jamaica because the elite-level coaching foundation for our youngsters is not in place. Coaching entails communication of strategies and techniques to our young players so that they cultivate the proper habits early. Once this is achieved, winning and playing good football will come consistently.
This would allow us to produce home-grown world-class footballers similar to the sprinters produced from our world-famous sprint factory! In times of crisis, it is important to be humble and wise.
Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and StudentofFootball@yahoo.com.