Sport

Playing field or pasture? — Coaches say poor surfaces stifling local soccer

BY SANJAY MYERS Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, July 18, 2012    

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SINCE Jamaica’s successful run to the FIFA World Cup in France 1998, the implementation of decent playing fields across the island has been minimal, according to some prominent local coaches.

While that achievement held promise of proper infrastructure and improved playing surfaces, many have been left disappointed by the common sight of poorly maintained, over-used fields that pass as home to some of the top football entities.

Embarrassingly for some football watchers who recognise the impact good surfaces can have on the game, there have even been instances when the fabled National Stadium field has been sub-par at best.

According to Andrew Price, technical director of Boys’ Town FC, Jamaica’s progress has been abysmal, given the euphoria and economic boost from its historic 1998 exploits.

“We definitely have not made the improvements... Some fields have improved because we have come from far, but for a team that qualified for ’98 World Cup, I would have hoped that we would have been more developed in terms of infrastructure and fields,” Price said at the recent

Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange of reporters and editors.

Price was among a group of local coaches who shared their “mind-blowing” experiences after a nine-day coaching course in Brazil.

Inevitably, Price drew a comparison between the infrastructure in the land of the five-time World Cup winners and the palpably despairing custom in Jamaica.

“In Brazil, the training ground is different from where they play competitively,” he said. “When (Jamaican) clubs have to train and play on the same field for nine months that can’t be good.

“The Jamaica national (senior) team is going to train… and they have to train at the Edward Seaga Sports Complex because there is no field for them to train on. This is the national programme!” he reiterated.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has struggled to provide a first-rate practice facility for its teams, despite attempts to do so under respective administrations led by Captain Horace Burrell and later, Crenston Boxhill.

In his second tenure, Burrell has overseen the much-delayed JFF Technical Centre located at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus. The FIFA-financed complex is set to be opened in October.

Meanwhile, Price stressed the need for youngsters to be brought up on playing surfaces where they can be properly taught the basics of the game.

“We need to have youngsters nurtured playing on good fields where they can develop good habits and good technical skills. They are not going to do that on the type of surfaces they are playing on currently.

“In the daCosta Cup... some of them (the fields) are like cow pastures, and this is what the schools have to play on,” Price lamented.

National Under-20 assistant coach Andrew Edwards gave a less negative insight on the matter and identified a few fields he deemed to be of decent quality.

“When you look at the fields that have emerged since ’98, you have the Brancourt and Juici Patties fields. They are among the best in the country.

“The recently-renovated Catherine Hall Complex, the one at STETHS (St Elizabeth Technical High School) and St George’s College are decent surfaces. I would say some progress has been made, but not enough to be celebrated,” Edwards said.

Price replied: “The mere fact that Andrew has to be counting the number of fields that we can describe as good fields (says a lot).”

Meanwhile, Harbour View’s Harold Thomas called on the authorities to set up a programme where experts find out what type of grass is best suited so it can be grown at the various venues.

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