Paul Wright | Put women’s football higher up JFF totem pole
As the football season winds down, we can reflect on the ups and downs of the state of local football compared to times seemingly long, long ago. The final match of the schoolboy season, the ISSA Olivier Shield, saw the darlings of local football aficionados, Clarendon College, cement their place as the best of all on show this season with a nail-biting penalty shoot-out victory over what must be the epitome of never-say-die sport teams, Jamaica College.
It was as if the season’s misfires and gaffes were worth it as our overworked children at play showed all the tenets that inspire us with optimism about the future of our island. Hopefully, the lessons learnt during the Christmas term football season for children in school will be put to use by the authorities, ISSA, whose mandate includes preparing our children for life as adults in a challenging and unforgiving world. This is a world that demands an education that includes problem solving, sporting prowess, appreciation of the arts, and academic qualification. The apparent thrust to provide a vehicle for the discovery and development of professional athletes in lieu of a holistic education should by now be exposed as an aberration that needs correction. The primary focus of school for our children is in danger of being hijacked by professional coaches whose economic success is dependent on winning at all costs. I hope that my optimism that good sense will prevail when ISSA begins planning the future sporting calendar for our children placed in their care for five to six years, is not naive.
Our older population also concluded their football season. The Kingston and St Andrew Masters League Association concluded its most successful season of Masters League football to date with the best on show of the 22 teams participating being honoured at their annual awards ceremony on Sunday. The health benefits of our senior men continuing to play football for fun and fitness is being reflected in the increasing numbers of men who play. Hopefully, every year from now on will see more teams entering until Masters League football becomes an annual islandwide competition.
Our ladies, not to be outdone also concluded their season. The so far unsponsored competition reflects the disdain that corporate Jamaica and the governing body, the Jamaica Football Federation, has when female football is considered and compared with male, children, and senior football. The main reason for this apparent ‘sexist diss’ is put down to a paucity of sponsor dollars. But I beg to differ.
When the present hierarchy of local football was being elected, the problem of finances for the federation was a key part of the proposals of the two protagonists. One had the obvious and prominent backing of proven corporate giants. The other had vague promises of backing and a promise of looking out for the well-being of the voting delegates. We now know what swayed the votes of the delegates. We also now know that there were no donors or sponsors identified, and we now know that promises were kept in looking after the welfare of the voting delegates. The lament of the man who brought unprecedented success and joy to the nation and the federation highlights the financial and emotional sacrifices of Hue Menzies, and his team, spearheaded by the inimitable Cedella Marley. Menzies’ lament and the statement from his assistant and now unofficial head coach Lorne Donaldson highlights a litany of missteps and arrogant disrespect for the architects of the success of our Reggae Girlz that made an unprecedented but earned trip to the ultimate level of Women’s football, the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The failure to pay these stalwarts of female football, coupled with the reported refusal to meet and dialogue with these men, reflects a very worrying portrayal of the position of female footballers on the totem pole of priorities of the male dominated JFF. Having secured another term from the ones that matter, the delegates, there is very little hope that soon female football would be afforded a higher spot on the totem pole of priorities of the JFF. Until then, a grateful nation can only, silently, wish continued success for Menzies and Donaldson in their future coaching assignments. The support from an apparent supportive minister of Sport, while vocal, has very little activity in making sure that the successful programme initiated by Menzies and Donaldson continues. So we wait for the next round of election promises and maybe a federation that values the role of women in football locally and internationally.