Western Jamaica throws support behind MBU
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Today when Montego Bay United take the field at the National Stadium to face Waterhouse FC in the final of the Red Stripe Premier League they will have the full backing of the entire Western Confederation.
To a man, the entire west has thrown its weight behind the team and the talk on the road since last week Sunday's 1-0 win over defending champions Harbour View at WespoW Park in the second leg of the semi-finals for a 3-2 aggregate win, has been about the fortunes of the team in its third year in the league.
Even those who still opposed the name change from Seba United have softened their stance and while none wanted to go on record, some were planning on making the trip to Kingston to watch the first western team to make it to the national club final since 1998, when, ironically, Seba United were beaten 1-0 by Waterhouse at today's venue.
Western Jamaica ruled club football between 1986-87 when Seba beat Boys' Town to become the first western team to win the Premier League, to 1996-97 when they won their second title. Between those two titles, Reno FC won three times, while Violet Kickers and Wadadah also won two titles. The other title went to Hazard of Clarendon in the 1992-93 season.
Yesterday, president of the St James FA Gregory Daley summed up the spirits of football lovers in St James when he told the Jamaica Observer, "We are all on cloud nine right now", and likened the feel to when Jamaica qualified for the FIFA World Cup Finals in 1998.
Linnell McLean, president of Trelawny FA, and the Western Confederation, Bruce Gaynor, second vice-president of the Jamaica Football Federation, Sheridan Samuels, the newly elected president of the Hanover FA, Everton Tomlinson, president of the Westmoreland FA, and George Evans, former JFF first vice-president and president of the St James FA, all hailed the achievement of Montego Bay United and spoke of the impact it will have on the game in western Jamaica.
McLean and Gaynor both said they hoped MBU's success will trickle down to the Western Confederation and the winner will qualify for the Premier League next season, giving the region two teams.
Gaynor, the ranking football official in the region, said western Jamaica has been on the verge of a big breakthrough for the past few seasons, but lacked the quality that would take them over the edge, until now.
"This will serve not just western Jamaica, but all of rural Jamaica well, as they will now see that (a team outside of Kingston) can take its place among the very top in national football," said Gaynor, who was a part of the former Seba United hierarchy and now on the board at MBU.
Gaynor said Orville Powell, president of MBU, shared the vision of the late Dennis Barton, founder of Seba United when he started the club in 1972 and said now maybe players from the region will see they don't have to leave western Jamaica to play quality football.
Gaynor and McLean also hailed the make-up of the roster, which, with the exception of Bahamian Lesly St Fluer, is made up of players from Trelawny, St James and Hanover.
"This is a great feeling. This is not just a western team but a western team, in that the players are from the region," McLean told the Observer. "We don't see any imports from elsewhere to boost this team."
The Confederation boss also hailed the organisation led by Powell. "It was not just the skill of the players on the field alone that got them to the final, but it was the serious structure, the organisation was also crucial."
Samuels conferred with Gaynor and McLean when he said many supporters never saw the vision that Powell had when he changed the name of the team from Seba United. "It is now bearing fruit. He broadened the support base of the club where now the entire city and parish feel a part of the team and will support them."
Tomlinson said, "this can only be a positive for football in western Jamaica and a win for MBU on Monday is a win for the entire region".
Evans said, "This will lift the spirit of football lovers in the west certainly in the immediate and short-term. The success of MBU will give a boost to other non-Kingston teams to show what can be achieved with a good structure, management and serious financial investment."
While saying that not many clubs are able to find the kind of financial backing of MBU and other top clubs, whether they win or not, "they must be commended for what they have offered."