Sport

De Oliveira: 'Working in Jamaica was the best time of my professional life'

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

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WHEN late president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Captain Horace Burrell fired Brazilian Clovis de Oliveira back in 2002, it brought an end to an era. But what the move failed to do was force the Brazilian to re-evaluate his relationship with Jamaica and its people.

The love affair endures. As he admitted, de Oliveira never fell out of love with Jamaica, claiming that a piece of him is still rooted on the island that he called home for years, working closely with his countryman, the iconic figure of Rene Simoes.

During their stint, the country's football went through an amazing awakening that totally transformed the nation's game forever. Simoes and his team of Brazilians, with slavish belief and support of the Jamaican people, spurred the country to historically qualifying for three Fifa World Cup tournaments in the space of four years — senior Boyz to France 1998, Under-17s to New Zealand 1999 and the Under-20s to Argentina in 2001.

De Oliveira, who was later appointed technical director, led the Under-20s to Argentina. Older and wiser, de Oliveira still hungers for the chance to further contribute to Jamaica's football. And in his usual animated style, he said as much when the Jamaica Observer caught up with him recently.

“It's my dream to work in Jamaica again and one day and I'll be there. Don't get me wrong, I do believe Jamaica's National team is in good hands with Theodore Whitmore as head coach and his assistants.

“Besides, he (Whitmore) was a great player, and also a very good coach,” said de Oliveira, who would have coached the current Boyz head tactician in his brief care of the senior team. The experienced football man said his tenure in Jamaica ranks as perhaps his best in the game.

“Working in Jamaica was the best time of my professional life. Before I came to Jamaica, I was working in Saudi Arabia at the time, but decided to leave when I was invited by coach Simoes to join him. It was a radical change, not only in football, but my lifestyle.

“Rene gave me a great opportunity,” de Oliveira told the Observer from his home in Rio de Janeiro. The Brazilian, now 64 years old, says even after he left Jamaica he followed the progress of the country's football with keen interest.

“I am always reading the Jamaican newspapers online, and constantly talking to some friends I have in Jamaica, so I am kept abreast of what's happening,” he said. De Oliveira believes that Jamaica will return to the senior men's World Cup, but thinks that a few rudimentary facets have to be in place.

“Jamaica needs a project to make a renovation of its youth programmes. There are good footballers hidden in all corners of Jamaica and you have to go out there and discover them, and then polish them to play at a higher level,” he noted. The Brazilian embraces the view that a proper professional domestic league will aid the growth and development of players at unquantifiable levels.

“A very good professional league in Jamaica should help a lot with the development of young talent there. Jamaica is among a select group of countries that have qualified three national teams for the World Cup — Under 17 in New Zealand, Under-20 in Argentina and Reggae Boyz in France — so there is a record of achievement without a professional structure. Can you imagine how much more could be achieved with a full professional set up?”

De Oliveira said he is also pleased that many Jamaican players are getting opportunities outside of the country, and that by itself, is playing a major role in improving players in the absence of a top-flight league on the island.

“Jamaican players have potential to be in top clubs, and getting them outside of Jamaica is what has been helping the national senior team,” he reasoned.

The Brazilian says Jamaica returning to the Under-17 men's World Cup in Mexico, the senior men's team making back-to-back Concacaf Gold Cup finals (2015 & 2017), plus the Reggae Girlz's historic qualification to this year's women's World Cup in France go a far way promoting brand Jamaica.

“This exposure says a lot for a Jamaica, as it is always good to put Jamaica's name on the international map,” de Oliveira said. The Brazilian also paused to commend Concacaf for its new competition structure, especially the Nations League, where Jamaica compete in League B.

“The Nations League will be very helpful for the development of the region as it gives opportunity for all countries to showcase their players. I like this competition very much,” he noted.

“As a football coach I know that it's important to expose players internationally, so the Concacaf Nations League is a great opportunity in exposing regional talent,” de Oliveira concluded.


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