A job well done in executing schoolboy football season
After a long, hectic run, the annual schoolboy football season comes to an end today with the second leg of the all-island ISSA/LIME Olivier Shield in Kingston.
Readers will be aware that Manning Cup (Corporate Area) champions Jamaica College have a 3-0 advantage over daCosta Cup (rural) champions St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) entering today's game.
As usual, the interest has
been extremely high all season, with the top schools pulling strong spectator support.
Reports suggest that the standard of play across the board was generally high and behaviour at all levels mostly good.
As has been the case for the last several years, there is again an impression that the standard of play in the Manning Cup has been a shade or two higher than the daCosta Cup.
It's an impression that STETHS will be fighting with might and main to overturn today. Though, like the rest of us, STETHS — asked to play three big games, the daCosta Cup final and the two legs of the Olivier Shield in an eight-day span — will know that the odds are stacked against them.
The inequity in rest time for competing teams at various stages of competition has come up regularly over the years and is obviously something the organisers — the Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) — need
In the specific case of the Olivier Shield, STETHS took the field for the first-leg game, having won the daCosta Cup just four days earlier. JC, on the other hand, had rested for a week-and-a-half following their triumph in the Manning Cup final.
Pretty much the same scenario unfolded a year ago. Back then Glenmuir High was left with the short end of the stick.
We are aware that there were also issues relating to rest time in the latter stages of the Manning Cup and Walker Cup (knock-out).
Scheduling is tough, of course. ISSA must fit all games into that time between the start of school in September and the end of term in early December. We feel that for the Olivier Shield this season there could have been consideration given to a four-day extension. That would have meant the first leg being played today and the second leg next Wednesday, bearing in mind that school closes late next week.
There were a few other areas of dissatisfaction during the season. Poor fields remain a major issue. Thankfully, though, there is a sense that all stakeholders are becoming far more aware of the need to improve surfaces.
Also, we were concerned with issues of security on a few occasions. Reports of poor crowd control at the Manning Cup final and the obvious inadequate security facilitated a crowd invasion in the daCosta Cup final come most readily to mind.
But we must also say that on the whole, spectator behaviour at schoolboy football games, and indeed in wider Jamaican football, has improved significantly compared to decades ago.
All things considered, and despite the occasional slightly sour note, this newspaper is giving a thumbs-up to ISSA and others involved in the management of schoolboy football. This was a job well done.
Heartfelt thanks to sponsors LIME and others for making it all possible.