Jamaica's massive football task

Saturday, June 14, 2014

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THE 2014 FIFA World Cup football tournament began earlier this week and, for the fourth time since 1998 when Jamaica made its historic qualification for the prestigious event, the famed black, green and gold colours that make up the national flag will not be fluttering in the strong Brazilian wind.

When the Jamaica train rolled into France in 1998, the world stood up and took note. For here was, what appeared on the surface, the birth of another Third World emerging force that had the potential to conquer the globe, just as we have done in athletics with the likes of Herb McKenley, Arthur Wint, George Rhoden, Donald Quarrie, Merlene Ottey, and later Bertland Cameron, Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell Brown, Yohan Blake, and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce.

However, somewhere along the road, Jamaica's football engine lost its turbo power. Consequently, the machinery has not been able to fire with the same energy that characterised its entry into the room previously reserved for the big boys of the sport.

This newspaper has not hidden its admiration for the president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), retired army Captain Horace Burrell, and the manner in which he mobilised the forces that allowed for Jamaica's entry onto the big stage.

Captain Burrell's energy -- exerted between 1994 when he took over as president of the JFF, having previously lost in his bid for that office to Mr Heron Dale, and 1998 when Jamaica achieved its World Cup berth -- can hardly be matched by another administrator. During his performance as treasurer of the JFF in the 1980s, Captain Burrell merely wetted his feet in administration at a time when the leaders of the day were not so aware of what the consequences would be for Jamaica to qualify for what is called the Greatest Show on Earth.

But, with a change in administrative thinking in 1994 came the clear and positive belief that it would be possible for Jamaica to make its statement on football's glory mountain.

However, we must ask what has happened to that fire that characterised the 1998 campaign?

That, we believe, is what is needed to lift our football from the doldrums. Interestingly, the JFF elections, which are due within weeks, will see practically the same faces vying for leadership positions on the executive.

It therefore stands to reason that the thinking that has gone into football over the last decade will remain the same. Possibly, very little will change, and the challenge of lifting Jamaica's international standing will remain unresolved, even with the introduction of national head coach Mr Winfried Schaefer.

If the nation is to cash in on the lucrative incentives offered by football's world governing body, a more serious, even scientific, emphasis has to be placed on growing the local football product. It cannot be a mere exercise in poking the finger of blame at the Government, as the JFF has done in respect of improving playing surfaces nationally.

Rather, we maintain, the JFF must demonstrate, starting from its planning room, that the right people are put forward to serve the sport -- those who understand what needs to be done and how to do those things in a timely fashion.

Failure to do that will mean that Jamaicans will have to continue watching World Cup football without the familiar national colours standing up to nature's gusts.

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