A valuable lesson from Major League Soccer

Saturday, December 17, 2011

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We find Jamaica international and Houston Dynamo midfielder Mr JeVaughn Watson's comments in yesterday's edition to be very instructive and timely.

Mr Watson, who completed his rookie season in the US Major League Soccer (MLS) this year, was advocating from a position of authority when he urged Jamaican clubs and their agents to focus their energies more on getting players into the transit US market, rather than attempting to propel them directly onto the more lucrative, yet fiercely challenging and competitive European stages.

"I know everybody wants to go to Europe, but I think it's always better to start at the bottom then work your way up to the top, rather than go straight to the top and then fall right back down to the bottom," Mr Watson was quoted as saying.

Apart from the eloquence with which he delivered that thought and its philosophical content, his words resonate with a degree of poignancy and should be a lesson for all Jamaicans who have set goals and aspire to reach them.

Mr Watson's piece of advice may have unwittingly discredited the get-rich-quick syndrome that has afflicted our beloved island for too long, but it also reminded us that if as individuals we are more measured, deliberate and patient in executing life goals, the chances of success would be greater.

He is living testimony to that.

Mr Watson — a product of the local Premier League, having played for Sporting Central Academy — remains on his football odyssey, but taking a job in the comparatively emerging US leagues should be seen as a stepping stone to hopefully greater things.

We recognise that it may not be the most glamorous of leagues, nor does it deliver the monstrous pay cheques that are commonplace on the other side of the Atlantic, but for now it pays the bills.

The story, we believe, is similar, if not the same, for 13 other Jamaicans plying their trade in the North American leagues — biding their time for more prosperous doors to open.

Mr Watson said: "At the end of the day, you're getting paid to play and the world is still seeing you." We couldn't have said it any simpler, yet so effective.

As we understand it, MLS is no longer considered a Cinderella league. It has seen growth in a country where other sports like baseball, basketball and the American brand of football overshadow it.

It was said that near 38,000 fans saw the championship game between Mr Watson's Houston Dynamo and Reggae Boy teammate Mr Donovan Ricketts' Los Angeles Galaxy. That's a big turnout by American domestic standards.

Another Jamaica senior player, defender Mr Jermaine Taylor, also featured in that final game, playing alongside Mr Watson for Houston.

TV audiences have increased by "seven per cent this year", ESPN commentator Mr Ian Darke wrote on his blog. "Average crowds of more than 17,800 would seem to indicate that if soccer is still a minority sport in the US, it's becoming a significant one. Average attendance was higher in MLS than in the NHL or the NBA...," Mr Drake added.

Assuming his promulgation is on the ball, then the prognosis for the MLS as a big money-spinner looks promising, therefore providing a viable alternative for the Jamaican 'baller.

But we are in agreement with Mr Watson that North American leagues better suit our Jamaican players. For one, it's closer to home, which makes players more readily accessible to the national programme. Also, it's less physically demanding than the English game, where many local-bred players have had successes, but where even more have faltered at the initial trial stages.

So on the eve of the transfer window opening on January 1, local clubs and young Jamaican footballers aiming to join the professional ranks should take heed and follow Mr Watson's lead.




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