Jamaican football owes huge debt to schoolboy competitions

Jamaican football owes huge debt to schoolboy competitions

Saturday, August 26, 2017

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Following close on the heels of Jamaica's highly successful campaign at the CONCACAF Gold Cup using mainly local-bred players who are active in the North American professional leagues comes the morale-boosting 2-1 away friendly win against Trinidad and Tobago.

The thing that will have pleased the football fraternity most about Thursday night's win, not least the coach Mr Theodore Whitmore, was that it was achieved with players all based in the semi-pro Jamaican premier league.

The local league has come in for stinging criticism from knowledgeable observers because of its perceived poor standard.

However, it's clear that the best players from the local league deserve their chance to prove themselves at the international level whenever the crowded professional schedule makes it difficult or impossible for higher -ranked North America and Europe-based players to be available.

Limitations notwithstanding, considerable effort must go into nurturing that local talent.

We have often made the point in this space that in the absence of a truly professional set-up at the clubs, Jamaican football must depend heavily on schools to develop and nurture young talent.

Indeed, standouts at the Gold Cup and from Thursday night's game in Trinidad were, for the most part, highly rated during their time at school. In fact, at least two members of the squad which went to Trinidad are still at school.

It's appropriate, then, that even as we applaud the current success of local born and bred players at the senior level, the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA), main sponsors FLOW, and other business partners are busily preparing for the September 9 start of the 2017 schoolboy football season.

We are told that there will be 42 teams competing in the urban-based Manning Cup and 90 in the all-rural daCosta Cup.

Yet again, congrats are in order for telecoms giant FLOW for putting its money in what is Jamaica's most popular football competition. As we have said in the past, this newspaper is hopeful that over the medium to long term ISSA, along with its partners including Government, will be able to secure improved playing surfaces for schoolboy competitions.

The poor quality of most fields poses a huge drawback not only because such surfaces encourage poor technique and make it next to impossible to play good, efficient and attractive football, but also because of safety considerations. The harsh reality is that some fields used in schoolboy football, and even at higher levels of local competition, present a real and present danger to the physical well-being of players.

That said, we are confident that the organisers will do all in their power to ensure another good football season.

We note ISSA's assurance that “We are mindful of the desire of our partners, patrons, players, coaches, schools — all to see this prime-time calendar competition grow in quality, value and resonance.”

On behalf of all Jamaicans, this newspaper conveys best wishes.

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