Roots go deep! JFF exec says Ja-Brazil link beneficial
JAMAICANS have long nurtured a sentimental link with Brazil, but a high-ranking official says the country's football connection with the vast South American nation goes beyond just an affair of the heart.
Howard McIntosh, chairman of the JFF Technical and Development Committee, said the country's seeming fixation on Brazilian technical expertise is actually based on pure prudent business variables. In other words, it's sensible business.
"Right now, we are working with who works with us and make things happen for us," said a McIntosh, a FIFA development officer for CONCACAF.
"We have had a great relationship (with our friends in Brazil)... one that has benefited us and one that has made it affordable," he added.
Even though some football watchers and commentators have argued that the best technical minds in football exist in Europe, and particularly, the Netherlands, Jamaica remain true to their soft spot for the 'beautiful game' by continuing to employ Brazilian tacticians.
Long after the iconic Brazilian Rene Simoes came and left, and returned again, and was then fired, a number of Brazilian coaches have taken up the reins.
After Simoes' departure following his success in leading the Reggae Boyz to the France 1998 World Cup Finals on his first stint, countryman Clovis De Oliveira and Sebastiao Lazaroni have come and gone.
Today, there is a four-man Brazilian coaching staff led by technical director Professor Walter Gama functioning at critical levels within the technical programme. The others are Gama's son Luciano, assistant senior team coach Professor Alfredo Montesso and goalkeeper coach Armano Bracali.
But the first Brazilian coach to have come to Jamaican shores to take charge of the national team was Jorge Penna back in the 1960s.
"You know, many of us consider ourselves Brazilians and we started out initially and that would be some 18 years ago when we wanted to establish some relationship (with Brazil).
"I remember at the time Captain (Horace) Burrell sitting down with then Prime Minister PJ Patterson telling him that he needed some assistance to help our team in getting a coach and he set out to get a coach from Brazil and we eventually ended up with coach Simoes," said McIntosh, giving a brief background of how the Brazilian coaching roots started to take hold.
Since then, he noted, the country has deepened its relationship with Brazil.
"We have established relationships with a number of entities in Brazil, including Traffic Football Academy; including as an institution Professor Simoes; including an institution in Professor Gama, and the Brazilian Ambassador," said McIntosh in response to a question at the weekly Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange.
The former banker said he expects the partnership with Brazil to deepen with emerging initiatives, some of which are on the verge of coming to fruition.
"There are many more things being planned in terms of technical with the UWI, the Brazilian government and also the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF)... You see also where we have developed a strategic relationship with Valencia, and we now have one or two players over there and they have sent their coaches here and they have expressed an interest in developing on that relationship," he disclosed.
Just recently, 12 Jamaican coaches returned from Brazil after completing "a mind-boggling" and "eye-opening" course at the Traffic Football Academy, the first of a number of planned courses as the JFF works to develop its coaching as part of a wide-ranging technical infrastructural programme.
"As far back as 2007 we set out on a programme to improve what we call the technical infrastructure in the game, specifically what we are talking about here are the players, the referees, the facilities and coaches.
"The last part of that technical infrastructure is coaching, and it started with a coaching education programme in 2009, and we partnered with the University of Technology as we wanted to institutionalise the coaching... we set about getting a programme based on our analyses of the football and decided we needed to get about 800 to 1,000 coaches properly educated in terms of being able to manage our football from a technical standpoint."
To date, the JMMB/JFF UTech Coaching School has graduated 400 coaches at various levels of competency.
"Part of this coaching education is why we sent these coaches to Brazil. The course itself should have taken place last year, but for various reasons it did not. Essentially, what we want to do is expose coaches to international best practices in coaching, and in so doing you not only want to expose them to coaching techniques and coaching instruction, but you also want to expose them to facilities, and that's the essence of the programme," McIntosh explained.
The programme, he says, was designed by technical director Professor Walter Gama, along with Dr Daniel Gama.
With a JFF mandate that all coaches have to be certified to instruct the game in Jamaica and with the changing face of coaching in the world, the technical infrastructure development programme has given the coaching plank traction.
"Coaching structures have changed in Jamaica as some of the teams that couldn't compete against each other, are now competing primarily because of how the coaches are applying what they have learnt.
"Truth is, things have changed and you have to continue to update yourself with coaching principles and the application of those principles," said McIntosh, popularly known as 'Big Mac' in footballing circles.