The value of consistent competition

Saturday, November 16, 2019

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We take note of a view that the ongoing Concacaf Nations League is of little value to Jamaica because of the supposedly low standard of opposition teams.

There is the suggestion that the senior Reggae Boyz would be much better off playing “stronger teams” in preparation for Concacaf World Cup qualifiers which begin next year.

Quite apart from the reality that it is dangerous to dismiss opposing teams as weak, it seems to us that such a position is unnecessarily negative. We think it tantamount to saying the glass is half empty, when it could just as easily be said that it is half full.

In any case, as defender Mr Damion Lowe has quite sensibly pointed out, the Nations League presents opportunities for team training and gelling that were previously absent.

Previously, the Jamaica Football Federation would have had to be making arrangements — sometimes fruitless, often unsatisfactory and at great cost — to schedule Friendly Internationals for the national team during periods of Fifa's international window.

Says Mr Lowe: “The Nations League is good because if you look back... we never had so many international matches unless it's a tournament year… this competition has helped us to go up in the rankings, and I must say the way Concacaf has structured everything is perfect for us.”

Also, it's never good for Jamaicans or anyone else to seek only self-interest, with no regard for the welfare of others.

Consistent competition among member countries will lift standards in the Caribbean Football Union and the wider Concacaf, which can only be to the good of Jamaica's football. That's enlightened self-interest.

That said, it's clear that Jamaica and Caribbean football lags a considerable distance behind standards in Europe, South America and leading nations in Concacaf, Africa, and Asia.

A look at televised international and club football will quickly confirm the huge gulf between the top football-playing countries and others, in terms of the tactical and technical aspects of the game.

Even more pronounced in Jamaica's case is poor infrastructure — not least a paucity of good playing surfaces which are essential for good football.

Obviously, the Government has an important role to play in terms of improving football and other sporting facilities. However, in the context of competing needs relating to health, education, security, housing, et al, sport comes low on the totem pole.

In that respect, bridging the infrastructural gap between top football-playing countries and others like Jamaica requires money, which won't come until business interests can be enticed to invest, thereby providing the natural environment for true professionalism.

That won't happen if there is perception of inadequate transparency, accountability, and glaring inefficiency in the management of the sport.

The embarrassingly shoddy hotel arrangements that met the Reggae Boyz on arrival in Antigua early this week provide yet more evidence that the problems in football go way deeper and beyond the field of play.

There is a long way to go before Jamaicans can feel satisfied about their football and the management of the sport.


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