The bright side — New Green FC a beacon for Manchester football
MANDEVILLE, Manchester - New Green's failure to qualify for the Red Stripe Premier League this year is being seen as a missed opportunity, but also as a sign of progress, by football officials here.
If nothing else, they believe the team's ascent to the Premier League play-off is an indication that a return to top-flight football is imminent for a Manchester club.
One of four promoted teams, not much was expected of New Green Football Club at the start of the South Central Confederation Super League season, but they defied the odds to win the title ahead of overwhelming favourites Rivoli United and Meadows.
They failed to repeat their heroics in the resultant four-team play-off - losing out to KSAFA's Cavalier and Savannah of Westmoreland - but their efforts were nonetheless hailed as steady progress by various speakers at Thursday night's Manchester FA awards ceremony.
"For the first time in eight years we were this close to having another Premier League team in Manchester, but I promise you that we will not have to wait another eight years," FA president Dalton Wint said.
It is now 14 years since Manchester last had a premiership team following the relegation of Mile Gully in the 1997/1998 season. Before Mile Gully, there were Kirkvine and Los Perfectos, so understandably, New Green FC's surge to the play-off brought real hope to the parish.
"It was a real disappointment when Mile Gully got relegated because they were the standard bearers at the time," said veteran sports administrator Pat Anderson. "I was sincerely hoping that New Green would have qualified (this year), but something was missing from their (campaign)," he added.
"Going forward, let us give them some support because they really gave us hope that instead of going to Clarendon or Westmoreland we could stay here and watch matches on Sundays," Anderson said.
Wint believes bringing top-flight action back to the parish will only become a reality with the help of corporate Manchester.
"We cannot do it without financial support," he said, "so I am appealing to the (business community) for more assistance."
Wint was joined by North West Manchester Member of Parliament Mikael Phillips, who sponsors the parish's women's league.
"I am pleading with the private sector to put some money into the sport here in Manchester because it has done well and is one of the vehicles that can be used to combat poverty and crime and violence," Phillips said.
Over the last three years, Manchester has made positive strides in youth football.
At the schoolboy level, Manchester High have contested a daCosta Cup and a Ben Francis Knockout final in the last three years, while the parish Under-13 and Under-15 teams are starting to rub shoulders with their St Catherine and Clarendon counterparts in the Confed youth leagues.
"Only recently, we had seven boys from the parish being drafted into the national Under-17 provisional squad," Wint said. "They did not make the final cut, but I believe that is a sign that Manchester is poised to make a real national impact. The building blocks are already in place," he added.
Building blocks, which Jamaica Football Federation president Captain Horace Burrell told his audience, will lead to a lasting future.
Kendal were among the big winners at the presentation ceremony. They took home trophies and prize monies for winning the Captain's Bakery Major League and mid-season final, the Brumalia House President's Cup Knockout and the inaugural Mikael Phillips Women's League.
Other big winners on the night were Mile Gully FC (C&D Construction and Engineering U-13 and U-15 champions), Mile Gully Youths (Power Services U-17) and Alligator Pond (Power Services Division Two).