IN 1965, under the leadership of Brazilian coach Jorge Penna, Jamaica made its first failed attempt at World Cup qualifying for the FIFA World Cup for the 1966 World Cup finals in England.
Born October 14, 1950, a young, talented footballer named Allan 'Skill' Cole made his debut as Jamaica's youngest senior football international, donning the national colours against Atletico Portugueso, a Brazilian Division One team in a friendly when he was only 15 years old, along with another Kingston College schoolboy, Neville Oxford.
For me, Allan 'Skill' Cole is the most creative Jamaican player I have ever seen play. At the peak of his powers, Cole was a midfield maestro local fans compared to Pele.
He earned short professional stints in the United States with the Atlanta Chiefs in the late 1960s and with Brazilian club Nautica in the early 1970s.
I missed seeing Sydie Bartlett, Lindy Delapenha, Denzil Lue, Edwin 'Fairy Boots' Alcock and Lloyd 'Stumpie' McLean, amongst many others, play live, but heard stories from respected authorities.
Exceptionally creative players I saw live were Henry Largie, Arthur Lattimore, Mark Cobran, Hector Pinnock, Leonard 'Chicken' Mason, Dennis Zaidie, Peter Moses, Owen 'Ital' Stewart, Neville 'Bertis' Bell, Howard 'Juicy' Bell, Derrick 'Sashtri' Dennicer, Herbert 'Dago' Gordon, Devon Lewis, Richard 'Luigi Riva' Murray, Karl 'Digga' Largie, Alton 'Noah' Sterling, Allan Latty, Warren Tullonge, Keith 'Barnaby' Tulloch, Michael 'Fateye' Thompson, Winston 'Harry' Tennant, Peter 'Dove' Marston, Luke 'Shenk' Whitney, Martin Woodstock, Roger Martin, Junior Groves, Dougie Bell, Keith Cunningham, Lenny 'Teacher' Hyde, Dennis 'Den-Den' Hutchinson, Anthony 'Berger' Johnson, Noel 'Sweetie' Smith, Donald 'Gemi' Hewitt, Calvin 'Wappy' Valentine, Trevor 'Dango D' Dennis, Hugh 'Bingi' Blair, Wayne Palmer, Lincoln Taffe, Altimont 'Freddie' Butler, Dennis 'Stylo' Ebanks, Montique Long, Glen 'Bobby Reds' Laing, Roderick Reid, Walter Boyd, Hector Wright, Paul 'Tegat' Davis, Durrant 'Tatty' Brown, Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, Kenneth 'Blacks' Gaynor, Anthony 'Baddas' Corbett, Linval McKenzie, Peter 'Jair' Cargill, Jermaine Hue and Ricardo 'Bibi' Gardner. Recently Keith Kelly, Keammar Daley and JeVaughn Watson.
In the three decades between 1965 and 1990, poor leadership coupled with players migrating, retirement, indiscipline, suspension, lack of preparation and insufficient funding have led to our failed efforts to progress internationally.
OUR NATURAL RESOURCE
Cometh from western Jamaica was a bunch of creative players from Reno FC, Seba United, Wadadah and Violet Kickers who dominated local football for a decade.
Hector Wright, the left-footed midfielder who played for Seba United FC emerged, but his career was cut short by injuries. He made his debut for the 'Reggae Boyz' in 1988 at 19 years old, against Canada and also skippered the national team.
He played for nine years across three World Cup campaigns, until age 28 when he played his last international in 1997 against Costa Rica.
Whitmore made his debut in a November 1993 in a friendly match against the United States, coming on as a late substitute for Hector Wright.
He earned 105 official international caps and scored 24 goals for Jamaica. He was the Reggae Boyz midfield general during the second half of the 1990s, playing as a major catalyst for the team as they advanced to their first and only World Cup Finals in 1998.
Although Jamaica were eliminated in the first round, Whitmore scored two goals in their lone win in the competition -- a 2-1 victory against Japan.
In that same year, Whitmore was named Caribbean Footballer of the Year. His last international match at age 34 was also against the United States in a 1-1 away draw on November 17, 2004 during 2006 the World Cup qualification series.
During the 1990s, while the talent pool dwindled in western Jamaica, continued investment in the mid-island regions of Clarendon and Spanish Town blossomed as Kingston and St Andrew's development flourished after two decades of structural adjustment in youth football and administration. Soon new stars glowed nationally.
Quality attracts more quality, and they sometimes hunt in packs.
Seba can show a long line of creative midfielder pairs from 'Noah' Sterling/Latty to Whitmore/Milton Griffiths, but are now importing overseas Caribbean players instead of developing its own.
Reno FC, Wadadah and Violet Kickers have also stopped developing their own young players, while Black Lions is now extinct.
Clarendon clubs have succeeded with numbers and quality, while morphing into Portmore United to expose talent internationally as evidenced by Rodolph Austin, Jason Morrison and JeVaughn Watson. Kingston clubs from Santos FC, Cavalier, Real Mona, Waterhouse, Constant Spring, Rae Town, Boys' Town, Tivoli Gardens and standard-bearers Arnett Gardens have stood committed to youth development where talent evolves, mixed with schoolboy contests.
When the "1994 Golden Age" of the Reggae Boyz climaxed at the 1998 World Cup Finals, it discovered KSAFA clubs' development ahead of the island as HVFC's Ricardo Gardner transferred to Bolton Wanderers in England.
The tradition of Harbour View's creative players continues the breed in left-footer Hue since 1992. He grew up playing with Ricardo Gardner, Robert Scarlett, Khareem 'Niche' Cooke and later Milton 'Bonnie' Griffiths to win the Premier League in 2000 for new coach Peter Cargill.
He then nurtured the next generation of Keith Kelly, Akeem 'Boogie' Priestley, John-Ross Edwards, Romario 'Rum Rum' Campbell, Andre 'Zidane' Steele, and Jorginho James.
The current Arnett Gardens trio of Errol 'Naldo' Stevens, Lamar 'Wanka' Nelson and Andrew Phang all benefitted from two years' apprenticeship at the feet of the maestro at Harbour View, where they each won two JFF Under-21 League titles.
There, Stevens earned a 2009 stint in Russia and Nelson was sent overseas on a 2011 trial in Norway.
A rich history of scoring (three times from three games) against and defeating Guatemala, Hue, in tandem with the returning Phillips, is a treat we all await to see, along with the running of former teammate Luton Shelton.
Coach Wendell Downswell excelled at the 2005 Gold Cup, playing the unlikely pair of Andy Williams and Hue to great creative success against the now 33-year-old creative midfielder Carlos Ruiz and Guatemala.
The opportunity exists here and now that Jamaica's most successful midfielder/coach Whitmore can employ two or three of our most productive midfielders currently in Philips, Austin and Hue on the field in Guatemala at the same time to execute their creative skills and progress towards the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil.
Happy 62nd birthday, 'Skill'!