Crowning the nation's best
IT may come as a shock to many younger Jamaicans to hear that there was a time when western teams totally dominated the nation's premier league football.
In fact, between 1987 when Seba United (now Montego Bay United) won — the first western team to do so — and 1997 when Seba again won, a non-western Jamaica team triumphed only twice.
That was in 1989 when Boys' Town won and 1993 when it was the turn of Hazard FC of Clarendon (now Portmore United) to celebrate.
It's telling testimony to the spectacular falling away of football in western Jamaica that since 1997 no team from that region has laid hands on the premier league trophy.
Since then, Kingston and St Catherine teams have ruled supreme with Waterhouse, Tivoli Gardens, Arnett Gardens, Harbour View, and Portmore United (now relegated) alternating titles. Also, Hazard (prior to its switch to Portmore) won in 2003.
Back in the west's 'golden decade' Seba, Wadadah and Violet Kickers of Montego Bay; and Reno FC of Westmoreland brought glory to their communities.
Back then, Montego Bay-based footballers such as Messrs Paul 'Tegat' Davis, Winston Anglin, Warren Barrett, Hector Wright, Durrent 'Tatty' Brown, Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, and Stephen 'Shorty' Malcolm were among the most respected of Jamaica's footballers. Indeed, they were at the core of the national team which gradually built towards World Cup qualification in France in 1998.
The reasons for the west's ascendancy in the late 80s through the 90s, and the dramatic decline since, should probably be the subject of journalistic exploration.
For now, though, we note that Montego Bay United, after years of struggle and structural adjustment, are at long last in a position to again bring football glory to the west, having reached the final of the Red Stripe Premier League against Waterhouse FC to be played at the National Stadium on Monday night.
Of course, Waterhouse FC — proud representatives of one of the capital city's more socially and economically depressed communities — have an inspirational story of their own. The leaders of that club and community deserve heartiest congratulations for the will, determination and sense of organisation which have enabled a strong football environment, including their very own mini stadium.
Regretfully, there was a sour note at the league's semi-final stage,when sections of the Arnett Gardens fraternity turned out to be poor losers. Happily, this newspaper considers it safe to say that the jarring misbehaviour last Monday night was in no way reflective of the season's full course.
It's often said that even out of bad, some good will come. And the decision of organisers, in the wake of the chaos at Arnett, to switch the final to the National Stadium was the right thing to do.
Safety considerations apart, it seems to us that the nation's best, having done all that's required to reach the final of the premier competition, deserve to be afforded the best facilities.