WENDELL Downswell has lauded state agency Institute of Sports (INSPORTS) for establishing a national football competition for Under-13 children.
Downswell, who has coached at all levels of the national programme, said "Jamaica's football looks bright" following the recent launch of the third edition of the LIME/INSPORTS Primary League.
Corporate giants LIME, who are in the final year of a $60 million three-year agreement as title sponsor of the competition, were also praised for its role in financing one of the largest competitions of its kind in the Americas region.
"I must commend LIME, in conjunction with INSPORTS, for the sort of vision that they have displayed by virtue of allowing these youngsters an opportunity of this magnitude to somewhat showcase their talent," said Downswell, a current coach of the National Under-17 team.
"Not many youngsters get this opportunity at such a tender age to showcase their talent in such an organised competition. I think this augurs well for the future of Jamaica's football and I'm absolutely certain that within the next five, six years we will start to see the benefits," he added.
He also sees a greater role for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).
"This is a grand opportunity for me and when I file my report (to the JFF)," he told the Jamaica Observer at St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) where the launch was held.
"Because to have over 400 schools in a competition islandwide is no ordinary feat. I think the JFF needs to give more urgent attention to a league of this magnitude," he said.
A historic 405 schools will compete for top honours this season.
That's a jaw-dropping 10,125 player-pool of talent that will be exposed, identified and hopefully placed in the JFF development system JFF through its local parish affiliates.
The move by INSPORTS, a government agency mandated to develop sport at the grassroots, has resolved a major headache of the country's football governing body.
Few local FAs had organised competition at this age group due to a lack of financial and other resources. Now all that changed in 2010 — the inaugural year the LIPL, as all parishes are well represented.
Furthermore, it is mandatory for each team to have at least one female in its squad of 25, thus keeping in line with the philosophy of the football's world governing body, FIFA, that the future of the game lies with women.
Talks of a new deal between the state agency and LIME are yet to surface, but so far the partnership has been rewarding, acccording to LIME's sponsorship manager Stephen Miller.
"It is the final year of the agreement, but we are definitely looking at extending this very fruitful agreement with INSPORTS," Miller said in an interview with the Observer.
"We have invested quite a bit into the competition. A lot has been garnered; lot of intangibles. The values that we've seen instilled in the coaches (and) the players are remarkable, and as a major corporate citizen, these are some of the wins we count when we are looking back at our sponsorships.
"Financial returns are important, but the values, harnessing and development of these kids are immeasurable," he added.
According to Miller, the tremendous reach that the LIME/INSPORTS Primary League has is a major plus for its numerous products and services offered to the public, one in particular of having the lowest call rates in the island.
Since the inception of the competition, LIME has donated several computers to the schools that have progressed to the national round-of-16. In some instances, new computer labs have been established or refurbished. However, this season LIME will be doing something special, Miller informed.
"For the last two years we have done a lot of telecom service for the schools. But we do have something that we're working on for this year that we think will be very groundbreaking. We haven't announced it as yet, but we are pretty close to (making an announcement)," Miller said.