Speak up on poor state of Reggae Boyz training field

Saturday, July 08, 2017

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The Reggae Boyz are off to the CONCACAF Gold Cup in San Diego, California, with coach Mr Theodore Whitmore hoping for at least a place in the knockout stage of the competition.

The Jamaicans will face Curacao in their opening game on Sunday fresh from having lost 1-2 to the same opponents in the recent Caribbean Cup in Martinique.

That squad in Martinique had much less overall experience than the one which left yesterday, which probably explains Mr Whitmore's optimism.

Of course, two years ago, Jamaica raised eyebrows throughout the football world by reaching the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup — also in the United States — eventually losing to Mexico. That 2015 squad included professionals from the English Premier league, the lower leagues in Britain, and Major League Soccer in the United States.

On paper, at least, the quality of two years ago outweighs the current squad. So that even as he expresses optimism, Mr Whitmore is making sure to remind Jamaicans that his current squad is in a “rebuilding phase” and that his players will need to develop and gain exposure.

You would expect that they should also have training facilities which will help them to prepare properly. Hence the frustration of Mr Whitmore and his senior players at what is said to be the inadequate standard of the training surface at the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies. The training facility was recently renamed The UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence, in honour of the late president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).

We are told that Mr Whitmore was left seething earlier this week after the hard, uneven surface forced him to cut training sessions. Several players complained of soreness having had to run and play on the field.

Senior player, Mr Kemar Lawrence was scathing in his critique: “We can't make a couple good passes because the ball is bouncing everywhere. A player can't play the way he really wants to because if he takes his eyes off the ball it bounces over his foot…”

Apparently affected by the state of the training facility, Reggae Boyz Captain Mr Andre Blake felt compelled to complain about the state of Jamaica's football fields to Sports Minister Ms Olivia Grange.

Of course, this problem of poor football surfaces in Jamaica is not new. This newspaper has raised the issue repeatedly down the years, pointing out that good football is simply not possible on bad fields, and furthermore that injury prevention and the proper nurturing of football talent requires good surfaces.

However, while the Government has to take some responsibility for the overall state of fields across the country, the same cannot be said for the football centre at Mona.

As we understand it, the Mona facility is the product of the FIFA-funded Goal Project — the first phase of which was opened by then FIFA head Mr Sepp Blatter in 2010. We were told at the time by the Jamaica Information Service that the project was to have been developed in four phases at a cost of US$4 million.

It seems to us that the JFF needs to explain to Jamaicans, in detail, the state of affairs with the FIFA Goal Project, including the reasons for the poor state of the football field and what's to be done about it.

The football fraternity and indeed all Jamaicans deserve answers.




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