New horizons beckon for Jamaica’s football
Word that the election of a new executive for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has been postponed will no doubt bring joy for some and annoyance for others.
For many neutrals, the dominant sentiment will possibly be relief — in the hope that the contending parties will use the period to simmer down.
That’s an unrealistic hope? Perhaps it is.
Yet, when the contest is over, opposing sides must be able to work constructively together for the greater good of football.
It’s worth contemplating that, despite the odd disappointment such as quarrels which led to fallout in the women’s programme in late 2023, these are exciting times for the sport in Jamaica.
Such are the possibilities following the Reggae Girlz’s success at last year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, we expect that differences between elite players and the JFF will be resolved in early 2024 — regardless of the eventual winner of the coming election.
In our view, whichever side wins must set about development programmes for women and girls, such as have been visualised in a manifesto presented by current JFF head Mr Michael Ricketts.
On the men’s side, the thrilling come-from-behind triumph over Canada in that country last November signalled that the Reggae Boyz possess the makings of qualification for the FIFA World Cup in 2026.
Very important will be the vision, organisational expertise and savvy of the JFF in building alliances and partnerships with private and public sectors, this year through 2025, and into the World Cup year.
At the developmental level, we think it important to make the point that the proliferation of football academies within and outside established clubs is not just about love for the game on the part of initiators. A huge motivating factor is that football globally is a big and rapidly growing business. There is money to be made for players and their handlers.
Jamaica should be doing more to nurture young, talented footballers, not just for transfers to traditional big clubs in Britain and the wider Europe, but to rapidly evolving markets in North America and elsewhere.
In that respect the recent announcement of a memorandum of understanding between St Ann-based football academy Mount Pleasant and English club Charlton Athletic for a “pathway” to professional football underlines a trend away from long-standing amateurism.
Likewise, we note the formation of the latest youth academy for five-to-17-year-olds, this time by Montego Bay United football club. We hear that the $10-million-a-year project is targeting development of talent for club, national teams, and the international market.
In the national interest, such investments should be actively encouraged by the JFF and Government.
Professional ventures apart, football, like all sport, should always serve as a positive change agent for wider development. Hence, the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association’s (ISSA’s) inauguration of a contest this afternoon between scholastic high achievers from rural schools (daCosta Cup) and their urban counterparts (Manning Cup).
That game will precede the traditional All-daCosta versus All-Manning game boasting the best Under-19 players in last year’s schools’ competition.
As we understand it, both games at the National Stadium will be closely watched by scouts from home and abroad.
Well done, ISSA.