THE Jermaine "Tuffy" Anderson story once again epitomises what is wrong with Jamaica when it comes to the development of our inner-city youth. In most cases, both Government and the private sector tend to be reactive rather than proactive.
Indeed, the success story of our home-grown athletes should have served as a wake-up call among those who still pursue the "wagonist" mentality. Not that many Jamaicans are not of the same ilk, but one expects better from those who lead and are the decision-makers in this country.
This is one Jamaican that will never support the notion and practice that anything Jamaican that is "branded" abroad is better than the real stuff back home. History has already shown that Jamaica's most outstanding sons were nurtured right here "back a yard" and were able to reach "higher heights" without having to be reproduced brand new second-hand in a foreign land.
Let's hope Captain Horace Burrell and his Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) colleagues have learnt their lesson well. We are tired of these hurriedly put together motley crews that pass for a Jamaican squad. Where is the passion? Where is the hunger? 'Tuffy' Anderson has all that plus the talent and perseverance. Let's stop fooling ourselves. Ain't nothing like the real thing, baby.
Now that 2014 has become a nightmare, it is time to focus on the way forward in a more patriotic and pragmatic way. For starters, the JFF should already have scouts out there at various matches seeking to identify potential Reggae Boyz. The DaCosta Cup, Manning Cup and Premier League games come to mind. In addition to this talent search, a full-fledged football academy needs to be established post-haste.
It is no secret that some, if not most of our best players, are from the "ghetto". Many of them are not well educated, are unemployed, and in some cases are unemployable. They lack the social graces and for many of them English is their second language. They may even be rambunctious, cantankerous, undisciplined, and hard to manage. But, so what? Look what Professor Higgins did with Eliza Doolittle in that blockbuster movie My Fair Lady.
Alas, it is only when a few of our talented underprivileged youth claw their way to the top through hard work, persistence and share bravado that they are noticed. And even then they are treated as rare specimens.
History has shown that Jamaica's greatest sons have come from very humble beginnings. Marcus Garvey, Bob Marley, Rex Nettleford, Usain Bolt are names that easily come to mind, yet we continue to adopt a classist attitude, disguised in many hypocritical forms, when it comes to discovering, nurturing, exposing, and mentoring our Jamaican youth who come from the bowels of the masses.
For Jamaica's sake, Captain Burrell, let's make sure that the road to World Cup 2018 is not just paved with good intentions but, as far as is possible, is a pathway that provides meaningful and genuine opportunities for "born ya, on ya" players. Not that one is against these foreign-based players, but one is yet to see what difference they really make except to look good on paper. From a psychological standpoint, methinks that a Jamaican player who is trained here and has a full-fledged national identity, who is steeped in the culture, inclusive of how they speak and body language, is more likely to go that extra mile to succeed on the field of play than one just brought in from abroad for a brief spell, and who already has become accustomed to a privileged and superior lifestyle, and so could not care a damn in the final analysis which way the cookies crumble.
Talk about emotional intelligence? The Reggae Boyz need that in terms of leadership and camaraderie. Emotional intelligence, it is said, "is the ability to express and control our own emotions and is important, but so is our ability to understand, interpret, and respond to the emotions of others. Imagine a world where you couldn't understand when a friend was feeling sad or when a co-worker was angry. Psychologists refer to this ability as emotional intelligence, and some experts even suggest that it can be more important than IQ". All learning has an emotional base, says Plato.
I sometimes wonder how the local Boyz relate to their overseas counterparts, both on and off the field of play. I recall that when 'Tuffy" scored that celebrated goal against the Costa Ricans, his foreign buddies did not do the customary thing of embracing and rejoicing in unison with him. Or did I miss that "Kodak" moment? Perhaps they were too shell-shocked when the Waterhouse ace player, who had been sidelined for so long from the national team and who comes across as rough and tough unlike their Anglo-Saxon appurtenances, put the ball where they had failed to do on numerous occasions.
When a "Tuffy" says to an overseas player, "See mi ya yout, leggo di ball!" or other expressions in the vernacular, accompanied by the typical aggressive Jamaican body language moves, what must we expect?
The bottom line is that we must begin the challenging process of investing comprehensively in our home-grown talents and stop relying on foreign players. That is the harsh truth, that is the bottom line. And I make no apology for taking this stance, neither am I being a "wagonist", although there are many Jamaicans that have a similar viewpoint.
I have a gut feeling that both Government and the private sector will be more inclined in the final analysis to throw their full weight behind a national football programme of development that is truly national. Jamaicans, too, from all walks of life will buy more into such a proposition and this will enable us to have a shared vision. If we could have produced a Usain Bolt, now a legendary athlete and world-class figure, why can't we generate a home-grown team that has the capacity, capability and determination to become World Cup champions? We can do it. Let's do it!
Lloyd B Smith is a member of parliament and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives. The views expressed are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the People's National Party.