Tony Becca, Contributor
The World Cup, the real World Cup, the World Cup of football, takes place in Brazil - the land of the samba - next year from June to July and Jamaica, the country of reggae, will not be there.
Jamaica crashed out of the race embarrassingly after a measly five points from 10 games, with five losses and five draws, and after scoring only five goals with 13 against in the final round.
If the truth be told, Jamaica's dream was ambitious and probably unrealistic, to say the least.
Ranked number 76 out of 207 countries, Jamaica, lucky once in 1998 when the nation's other sports were asked "to tighten their belts" for a year, or two, or three while the footballers were funded extensively, were never in the picture to make the finals competition to which 32 countries qualify.
And it is not that Jamaica finished last that hurts: it was their approach to the games, and the way they played the games that were really disappointing.
The wrong players were selected, most of them for most of the time they were under-prepared and there was no consistency. They were in and out of the team, match after match.
JUST A SPORT
Football is a sport and nothing else. It is first played as a recreation sport and it is played as such until it becomes competitive. It is played and coached regularly at various levels until it gets better, and then it finally moves to the international stage.
In other words, it is a step by step programme of development. It is not, regardless of what some people in the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) may think, something which happens overnight.
It calls for proper planning by those who run football. It calls for rigorous training, for dedication by those who play the game. It calls for good coaching at all levels, it calls for good competitions and it calls for good facilities.
It certainly calls for money to be spent on local football and on local footballers.
Good football and good footballers, for example, can only come from good playing fields.
To try to qualify for the World Cup by simply travelling the world to find a player of Jamaican connection to represent Jamaica and to satisfy someone's ego simply will not work, and it will not work, not because the Government cannot afford it, and not because most times those who will come and play are not good enough.
It will not work also because most times they are from second and third division clubs in another country, because most times they only come 'home' because they cannot make it in the other country and because they are not really from Jamaica.
Sometimes they don't even know Jamaica or anything about Jamaica.
On top of that, they do not bring with them a deep feeling for Jamaica, they cannot even sing the National Anthem when they line up before a match, and listening to the commentators covering the matches - abroad and at home - on many, many occasions, they are described as being 'flat', 'listless', 'mechanical', 'tired' and 'too casual'; and that leads to 'the team looks disjointed', and 'there is no link between the backs, the middle, and the forwards'.
And that attitude, sooner or later, will affect the local players and the real development of local football.
The time has come that if a player, who is born in another country, learn and plays his football in that country, and then wants to play for Jamaica, he must go through certain requirements before he is even considered.
And to keep the feeling of Jamaica in the team, to maintain the national pride, it should be limited to a maximum of three or four of these players, and three or four players who will lift the quality of the team, always remembering that wearing a shirt of the same colour and pattern does not make one a Jamaican and neither does it build team spirit.
Jason Morrison, a midfielder who played all 90 minutes of all the games for Jamaica up to the final round, never played in the final round and never even made the squad as Jamaica went for almost all overseas players, said recently that he felt "hard done by his omission and the inclusion of so many British players", and that the team lacked "chemistry" because of that.
DROPPING THE GOLD CUP SQUAD
Another midfield player, Damian Williams, believes that the players to the Gold Cup in 2011 should have formed the basis of the World Cup squad.
"The last Gold Cup squad, which was mainly local players and players who were born here, was gelling together nicely and coming up to the World Cup qualifiers, they just made a drastic change and 'you had to be playing in England'.
"A lot of players feel a way about it, (even players in the squad) feel it too, because we were playing like a family. I don't know what went wrong."
And coach, German Winfried Schäfer, regardless of his words later on, said that he "wanted players who have heart for Jamaica", while former Prime Minister, Edward Seaga, said that, after Jermaine 'Tuffy' Anderson scored his goal, "at least we have proven that local players can make a mark".
It is obvious what went wrong, or what was wrong with the process.
To fill out a team with three or four overseas-based players is not bad, at least it is not as bad as including nine or 10 of them in a team of 11 players, especially when one of them, among other things, had not been playing football for some months.
On top of that, Jamaica never gets the better players because the better players will not come 'home'.
The best players remain in England to play for England because the conditions are better, the path to the World Cup is more assured and the benefits are better.
IGNORING LOCAL TALLENT
And for the last time, what good does it serve Jamaica to ignore the development of the country's football and its footballers and to spend money, so much money, to travel the world to find players, to bring them 'home', to pay them, to pay their other expenses, to find a coach, to bring him to Jamaica, to pay him, to pay his expenses; and for the coach and the players to meet only for a day or two before match time?
Maybe coaching is not all that important, at least not for the Reggae Boyz.
That seems a glorious waste of money, especially when, as weak as the local players may be, most times, if not all the time, they are better than the ones who are willing to come to Jamaica, and definitely could be much better if that money, or a little bit of it, was spent on their development.
When they get better, like a Ricardo Gardner or like a Ricardo Fuller, and are employed by overseas clubs, the JFF can then invite them home to play for Jamaica, and Jamaica will cheer for them, win, lose, or draw, because Jamaicans will know them and would have seen them in action many times before.
The JFF had better believe also that footballers and football coaches grow on each other, that the longer they stay together the more they respect each other, and that although times have changed, football fans the world over do not go to football only because the team is winning.
They go also because of the standard of the beautiful game and just as important, they go to see certain players in action, they go to watch their people, the people who they see day in and day out, passing the ball and dribbling through the field on the way to goal.
The JFF had better think on these things and do something about them otherwise Jamaica, regardless of all the plans for tomorrow, will not only miss the 2018 World Cup and also the one after that, but they may be forced, or will be forced, years and years from now, to look back on 1998 as nothing but a dream.