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JFF boss wants better football fields

BY KARYL WALKER walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, July 22, 2014    

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PRESIDENT of the Jamaica Football Federation Captain Horace Burrell said Jamaica's progress in football will be stymied if playing surfaces and facilities are not brought up to world standard.

Speaking at yesterday's weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange at the newspaper's head offices in Kingston, Burrell bemoaned the lack of good playing surfaces and called on the private sector to assist the country's football programme.

"The private sector must recognise that football is a unifying force. If we don't get the playing surfaces right then we are going to always be on the fringes," Burrell said.

Jamaica failed in its bid to qualify for the World Cup held in Brazil last month, a tournament which Burrell said taught Jamaica a number of lessons.

He explained that the short passing game had dominated the World Cup and that long aerial passes were slowly becoming a thing of the past.

"If we looked carefully, all the balls were being played in short passes. We are terribly hampered in this country to play that type of football simply because of the playing surfaces," he said.

Another lesson learnt, according to Burrell, was the fact that less emphasis was being placed on close skills and ball artistry, and the focus has shifted significantly towards accurate passing, which is enhanced by smooth, even surfaces.

He pointed to the success of Jamaican-born Liverpool and England forward Raheem Sterling as an example of what can be achieved if the facilities for football are improved.

Sterling has been a standout for his club and England. He benefited from a football academy and Burrell believes the exposure to even surfaces in Britain has helped to hone his undeniable talent.

"If we can get the playing surfaces right I think Jamaica can be a world power in football. There has to be a national push towards the establishment of better playing surfaces," he said.

He was supported by Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) President Jeffrey Webb who pointed out that the talent to be world beaters abounds in the region, but the infrastructure is woefully lacking.

"If we don't have the infrastructure in place then we are doing a disservice to our youngsters," Webb told reporters and editors at the Exchange.

Burrell said he was calling on China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) to assist in laying proper playing surfaces on at least four football pitches.

"I believe the kids are very talented, but they will never be able to express themselves if they don't play on good surfaces," said Burrell.

Burrell said the country's football programme would be better served by laying world- standard playing fields all over the country rather than by setting up a centre similar to Trinidad's Joao Havelange Centre of Excellence.

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