CLARENDON, Jamaica — Contrary to popular belief, Jamaica's fading World Cup dream is not an indication that the country's football programme is stagnant.
That was the sentiment expressed by the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president, Captain Horace Burrell, on Thursday night as he addressed the 2013 Clarendon Football Association awards ceremony at Bridge Palm Hotel in Toll Gate.
Captain Burrell, who has faced mounting criticism as the Reggae Boyz look set to miss out on Brazil 2014, said the number of home-grown players now plying their trade overseas is evidence that the nation's football continues to grow.
"My friends," Burrell said, "when people will call in on the radio and say nothing is happening in our football, I want to tell you that is not so".
"Today," he added, "we have a lot of Jamaicans, who came through this very programme, plying their trade in overseas leagues in the UK, the United States, Scandinavia and Vietnam. We have even had players in Russia.
"Those players are home-grown, and they are over there earning a living and sending back remittance to their families. This did not happen overnight," he stressed.
Jamaica, who have not qualified for the last three senior World Cup tournaments, currently sit at the bottom of the CONCACAF final round qualification table on four points, having failed to win any of the eight games played so far.
The USA (16 points) and Costa Rica (15), the two countries which have already qualified, lead the six-nation points table, followed by Honduras (11), Panama (eight) and Mexico (eight).
In spite of the stats, the Reggae Boyz still have a slim chance to qualify for the World Cup via the play-offs. But first, they will need to win their two remaining games against the USA and Honduras; then hope for favourable results elsewhere, in order to clinch fourth place and meet Oceania's New Zealand in the home-and-away play-off series in November.
But, even if the country fails to qualify for a fourth successive World Cup finals, Captain Burrell thinks all will not be lost.
"My friends," he said, "please erase that from your minds. Football is by far the greatest unifying force in the country.
"Years ago," Captain Burrell continued, "you could not go to places like Farm (Effortville) in Clarendon. But today, because of football, anybody can go to Farm. Years ago, people from Arnett Gardens couldn't go to Tivoli Gardens. But today, ladies and gentlemen, the beautiful game has made all of this possible."