JOA/JFF partnership an important step for football

Saturday, March 03, 2018

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We note with pleasure the recent announcement by the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) and the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) of a partnership aimed at qualifying Jamaica's Under-23 football team for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan.

Jamaica has never qualified for the Olympics in football, although there have been many attempts.

We are told that the JOA will contribute $8 million towards training camps and practice games. Support will include nutritional support, transportation, gear, and other costs.

Most Jamaicans associate the JOA with track and field, which is where the country has traditionally enjoyed great success at Olympic Games. But, of course, the Olympic movement embraces many sporting disciplines.

Older Jamaicans with long memories will recall cyclist Mr David Weller winning a bronze medal at the Moscow Olympics of 1980.

Football apart, this newspaper's understanding is that the JOA — with an eye on the next Olympics — is likely to give substantial support to other disciplines outside of track and field, including cycling and badminton.

We note the explanation from chief executive officer of the JOA, Mr Ryan Foster, that the funding will come from the Olympic Development Programme (ODP) through the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

“The IOC has what is called Olympic Development for multiple sports across the disciplines and our 41 associations, and when the JFF came to us with this proposal we saw it as an immediate fit for the JOA.

“The truth is we would love to see football in the Olympics. I know we have spent a lot of time looking at qualifying for the World Cup, but I think qualifying for the Olympics is just as important because it is the benchmark for the World Cup,” Mr Foster said.

Of course, as president of the JFF Mr Michael Ricketts has pointed out, the Under-23 Olympic programme is a natural “feeder” for the senior national team as it gets ready for another shot at World Cup qualification.

“This programme will not only prepare an elite team for the Olympics, but will become a feeder for the national programme... partnerships like these are fundamental to the growth of the sport,” Mr Ricketts said.

Indeed, many readers will recall that Jamaica's historic qualification for the 1998 World Cup in France was largely driven by players who came through an Olympic-qualifying programme earlier in the decade of the nineties.

We are referring to players such as Messrs Onandi Lowe, Chris Dawes, Gregory Messam, Fabian Davis, and Donovan Ricketts.

It is our hope that the current partnership represents a signal of a return to the systematic approach to the national football programme executed in the 1990s.

We note that accountability will be an essential element of the JOA/JFF partnership, with an end-of-year review of how money was spent built into the programme.

Undoubtedly, the suggestion of a planned, organised approach allied to financial accountability will encourage those in the private sector currently contemplating sponsorship of the national football programme.




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