Get the processes right and football will progress

Saturday, December 23, 2017

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We note the plea from left-sided defender Mr Kemar Lawrence for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to keep faith with the players who carried Jamaica to the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in mid-year.

Football followers will recall that the squad made up of North America-based and local players defied all odds to get to the final — beaten in the end by hosts United States.

Bemoaning Jamaica's failure to reach the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, Mr Lawrence says that if the JFF will only “invest” in the current national squad, there's a good chance the Reggae Boyz will be at the next edition in 2022.

Mr Lawrence names a number of players now in their early 20s who he says are at the right age to carry the national team forward.

It's been 20 years since Jamaica became the first English-speaking Caribbean country to qualify for a senior FIFA World Cup tournament — the 1998 event in France.

It seems to this newspaper that the Reggae Boyz have failed to repeat that triumphant Road to France campaign largely because the nation's football leaders lost focus. Rather than building a football programme that would present a platform for future success, the aim became simply to get to the next World Cup.

Yet, as then technical director, Brazilian Mr Rene Simoes pointed out at the time of Jamaica's qualification in 1997, the nation's achievement was something of an anomaly. In essence, Mr Simoes said at that time, since Jamaica had not built a football programme, qualification for the World Cup was like installing the roof of a house without having a foundation for that house.

So that while Mr Lawrence is correct in calling for the players who did the nation proud earlier this year to be kept together as a national squad, it has to be recognised that such a move by itself is not likely to bring the desired results.

To begin with, it seems to us, Jamaica must set about the process of building a proper professional football league, backed by the necessary resources to nurture and develop talent — the kind of talent that will constantly replenish and strengthen the national squad. That will mean greater involvement of and partnership with the business community.

During the campaign for football leadership a few months back, current JFF President Mr Michael Ricketts advocated the long-proposed franchise system as an important step towards 'professionalising' Jamaica's football. We need to hear more from him on this.

Then too, there is the long-standing, vexed issue of poor playing surfaces and inadequate football facilities generally. There has to be a concerted effort by all stakeholders to improve the quality of fields as well as accommodation for spectators, if football is to make progress.

Also, it seems to us, stakeholders, not least coaches, must build consensus on a style of play for Jamaican football, so that at the very least, age-group players can transition seamlessly from one level to the next. There has to be expert, informed technical direction from the JFF in this regard.

We believe that if the football fraternity can get the processes right, good end results, including senior World Cup qualification, will come.




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