Meticulous planning and investment the way forward for football

Saturday, May 12, 2018

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Just a month before arguably the globe's greatest sporting event, the four-yearly FIFA World Cup Finals, open in Russia, there is understandable nostalgia regarding Jamaica's qualification 20 years ago. And in equal measure regret that all efforts to repeat the feat have failed.

That nostalgia and regret were very much in evidence during TVJ's 'town hall' forum to discuss Jamaica's football on Thursday night.

The televised event was not as valuable as it could have been since the desire to hear far too numerous 'experts' in the allotted time, led to superficiality and inadequacy of discussion.

Yet there was enough to trigger much thought about Jamaica's football.

Even as participants yearned for qualification to another World Cup Finals and for the first time ever to the Olympic Games, there was recognition that those goals can't be ends by themselves but must form part of sustainable growth.

The truth is that while football has been Jamaica's most popular and most — played sport over many decades, there is yet to evolve a defined football culture.

A style or philosophy of play accepted as best suited to the Jamaican personality is yet to evolve and the nation remains a long way from an orderly professional regime.

However, it seems to this newspaper that the nation's football is much further ahead than it was in France 20 years ago.

To begin with, it's now accepted that football can provide a meaningful career for those with the necessary talent and desire. Indeed scores of footballers, born and bred in Jamaica, now ply their trade in professional leagues in North America and elsewhere.

Also, while suspiciously little is said about it, clubs have found that there is money to be made from the sale and loan of players to overseas entities.

And it can't be ignored that a Reggae Boyz squad made up entirely of pros and semi-pros, born and bred here, reached the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2017.

Despite the occasional manifestation of egomania on Thursday night there was spoken aspiration for a coming together to chart a unified way — much as was done on the Road to France.

And there was recognition that the way forward need not be either, or, such as a franchise system versus something else. But can be an amalgamation of elements into a whole which best suits the cash-poor, under-resourced Jamaican reality.

The obvious need for comprehensive youth programmes and on improving playing surfaces were recurring themes on Thursday night.

Those must be immediate priorities for the nation's football leaders. Rather than grandiose schemes, there should be a determination to carefully plan and take aim — over short, medium and long term — at achievable goals.

Jamaica and other Caribbean nations with big football ambitions should study the example of Iceland, a nation of 334,000 people in the frigid North Atlantic, which is among 32 nations due in Russia next month, with such powerhouses as Italy and the Netherlands absent.

Based on their performance at Euro 2016 when they reached the quarter-finals, expect Iceland to be highly competitive and dangerous at the World Cup.

They have got to this stage because over a period of many years, they planned meticulously and invested sensibly. Jamaica should do the same.




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