Letters to the Editor

New type of World Cup, Old Ja style

Monday, July 09, 2018

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Dear Editor,

As the World Cup approaches its climax, the developments so far — and the likely lessons that won't be learnt — may say more about Jamaica's national and football culture than we may care to admit.

But for a brief flirtation with Spain in 2010, Jamaicans have been in a torrid love affair with the slick, smooth, short passing game as exemplified by Brazil ever since Pele debuted in 1958. For much of that time this style and success were synonymous.

That era is over. This World Cup has been different. The vast majority of the goals — which is what ultimately counts — have come from penalties, corners, free kicks, own goals, the odd errant back pass, goalkeeping error, and from that ugly duckling of Jamaican football: the despised “long ball” of a bygone era — the highlight of which may have been Edinson Cavani's and Luis Suarez's wing-to-wing hook-up against Portugal, reminiscent of Cornwall's successful style of the 1950s.

It's hard to recall too many goals resulting from the “Brazilian” style. Spain, the ultimate exponents of “short-passing without purpose”, made an inglorious early exit, winning only one of four games.

But now that Jamaica searches for a national style, how likely is it that even a single club, school, corner league, let alone the Premier League, will adopt the “long ball” game or any variant of it? Not a chance. Any reports of such sightings would qualify as the ultimate in fake news. A report of snowfall in Clarendon would be more credible.

No such questions would arise for an NFL quarterback in an American culture where it's results that count. Given the preference between a 60-yard hand grenade into the end zone for a touchdown, rather than a bruising ground game, the choice would be the former nine times out of 10.

How many other aspects of our national life (eg crime) and culture do we resist changing despite overwhelming evidence that what we are doing — and love doing — does not bring the desired results?

We tend very much to prefer style over substance in sports and elsewhere. Anyone who doubts that should remember Andy Ganteaume, the Trinidad opening batsman. After more than 130 years of Test cricket and 70 years after his century in the first innings on debut in 1948, he remains the only man in the history of the game never to be allowed to so much as take his guard again in a Test. He scored 112 in four and three-quarter hours, a slow, boring, unspectacular knock. Had he made a quick, bright, stylish 50, with plenty shots, he would likely have had a better chance of playing again. But his knock was a box of vanilla ice cream. We would have preferred even a cone of rum-n-raisin.

Errol W A Townshend

Ontario, Canada

ewat@rogers.com

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