Thankful for artificial football surface at Mona

...but better project efficiency needed

Saturday, March 16, 2019

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In mid-2017, national senior men's football coach Mr Theodore Whitmore and players condemned the playing surface at their training ground, The UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence in Mona, St Andrew.

We well remember the scathing comment from national player Mr Kemar Lawrence: “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…”

The state of the field was particularly depressing at the time since, as we understood it, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) had already spent huge sums in Fifa grant funding under its long-running Goal Project to develop the centre.

Against that backdrop this newspaper welcomes news that, finally, a good playing surface appears to have been created under the Goal Project at Mona.

We are told that following a ground-breaking ceremony six months ago, an artificial surface — considered very satisfactory — has now been laid at Mona — replacing the natural-grass field so roundly criticised in 2017.

We are told that the new surface comprises synthetic fibres made to look like natural grass with rubber crumb infill.

JFF President Mr Michael Ricketts is reported to have said that he is “pretty certain that next year we will be laying another one (artificial surface) somewhere. We want to put up at least one per year for the next four years, and, of course, we want to have one in each region”.

Allied to the artificial surface, a new building with 26 rooms, expected to house 52 players and officials, has been opened at Mona.

Mr Ricketts makes the basic point that this newspaper has consistently made for many years that Jamaica's football needs good playing surfaces to consistently produce good players. In that respect, he says, the artificial turf will provide added opportunity for the nurturing and enhancing of young talent.

Also, the JFF president said, with a number of international tournaments — especially at age-group level — being played on artificial surfaces, the new facility provides opportunity to better prepare for those conditions.

We are told that the Astroturf project cost US$600,000. Checks by this newspaper suggest that about US$2 million has been spent on the various phases of the Fifa Goal Project, including the artificial turf, the newly opened dormitory, and a technical centre at Mona.

We are left to wonder whether there has been value for money on the Fifa Goal Project, which dates back to the early 2000s, when the JFF even acquired lands and started construction for an academy, close to Munro College in Potsdam, Malvern — an initiative which was later abandoned.

We are again hearing talk of plans for an academy to serve the national programme. Without doubt, there is great need for such, inclusive of high standard fields — natural as well as artificial.

Mr Ricketts is reported as saying that “…we have made some requests, and we are awaiting some answers, so we can really set up a proper facility.”

We look forward to that. But also, this newspaper expects that whenever it comes about, proper planning, execution, and strict accountability will ensure value for money.


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