Peter Gould's initiative could transform Jamaica's football

Saturday, September 22, 2018

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Religion runs deep in the Jamaican psyche. Hence the celebrated comment from former head of the Jamaica Football Federation, Mr Tony James, at the official groundbreaking ceremony for the Mount Pleasant Football Academy in St Ann back in May of this year:

“God must have sent this man,” Mr James was quoted as saying in relation to the academy's founder, Englishman Mr Peter Gould.

We can only imagine how strongly Mr James must feel now that the academy is actually up and running.

We are told that 55 footballers, ages 11 to 15, are now attending the newly opened academy. The boys are being housed at the 88-acre property on which the academy is sited. As we understand it, they will benefit from a high school educational programme, as directed by the Ministry of Education, in addition to a structured training programme in football.

This newspaper can safely say that nothing remotely resembling this project has ever been attempted in Jamaica before now.

As if the stars are aligned, news of its opening coincided with Mount Pleasant Academy's victory over defending champions Portmore United in their very first Red Stripe Premier League game.

We are told that at the Under-13 and Under-15 levels Mount Pleasant has already sent teams abroad for competition and there are plans to continue on that tack.

However, most of the focus has been at the local level, as Mr Gould has spent huge sums — actual amount remains undisclosed — on building the football centre in St Ann. In addition to classrooms, living accommodation and administrative offices, we are told that three football fields are currently being constructed.

Obviously, the long-term vision for Mr Gould will be trade high-quality players to the world's top professional clubs. But that's a long, long way from now.

Mr Gould says, most of all, he was motivated by the desire to help children achieve their dreams.

“It's all about the kids, that's the true story,” he told the Jamaica Observer earlier this year. “We are not going to sell the kids at 13, 14, we going to grow them here. There are some great talents and great coaches here and we can bring them up into teenagers before they go away if they decide to…But not everyone is going to be a great footballer, and so my aim is to give them education. They have to know 4x4 before they put their football boots on,” Mr Gould said.

He said back then that the Mount Pleasant Academy doesn't have a budget; “It's a project.”

Said he: “Unfortunately it's a not for profits, but if I am the luckiest man in the world, I would probably get my money back. But it's for the love.”

Hopefully, in time to come Mr Gould will see returns on his investment. But whether he does or doesn't, the Mount Pleasant Academy represents a huge gift to Jamaican football.

Often, in this space, we have argued about the need to 'professionalise' Jamaica's football. Mr Gould has pointed Jamaica in the correct direction in a big way. Hopefully others will follow his example.

We agree with Mr James' assertion: “If we could find three more Mount Pleasants throughout rural Jamaica you would be surprised to see what Jamaica's football would do in the medium term…”

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