Time to change JFF leadership, Reggae Boyz rosterMonday, September 19, 2016
football fans home and abroad are again left bitterly disappointed after the national senior football team failed to advance to the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The toothless and insipid display in Panama City personifies a disastrous campaign that gave us little hope from the outset. It is evident that the embarrassing 3-2 loss to lowly Nicaragua in the very first game of our campaign did not serve as a wake-up for call, neither the coaching staff nor the players, as they went into the semi-final round with the same lacklustre and unstructured approach. Now we are left to conduct the post-mortem on a campaign that never gathered momentum.
Two primary questions that come to mind after this latest disappointment are: What were the causes of this appalling campaign, and where does Jamaica’s football go from here?
In regards to the first question, one can point to a plethora of reasons for the failure of the Reggae Boyz to advance to the final round. First and foremost, there is no evidence of strategic direction on the part of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), where a structured programme is in place to assist the team to successfully navigate the course and qualify for the World Cup. Since France 1998, there is little evidence of the development of the sport in Jamaica, as majority of the football facilities on the island, especially the playing surfaces, are in an atrocious condition and are not conducive to good football.
What’s more, there are not many players transitioning from the junior to the senior ranks, and there is an over-reliance on sub-par players, many of whom are based in England. It causes one to wonder if the JFF has an active player database and if they scout and track the performances of players outside of England and America.
Another major reason for the failed campaign was the poor performance of the coaching staff led by Winfried SchÃ¤fer. Throughout the campaign, SchÃ¤fer displayed naivety and gross incompetence in all aspects of his job. His team selection can be described as an epitome of confusion and a lack of vision, as he persisted with the same players despite consistent mediocre displays. The continued inclusion of some players and the exclusion of others have proven to me that the coaching staff did not have a clear vision of the pre-requisites for success.
For example, it did not take me 90 minutes to realise that Michael Hector was not of international pedigree and we could find local players who, if given the exposure, could do a better job. Obviously, Hector has the vote of confidence of SchÃ¤fer, as he not only continues to be included in the team, but is deployed as one of the deep-lying midfielders which is not his specialist position. This was a tactical blunder, to say the least, as Hector, in my view, does not possess any attributes to play this role. He is a poor tackler, awful passer, and makes very bad decisions in and out of possession of the football. His inclusion at the expense of Rudolph Austin is very baffling. While Austin has his flaws, I think he is the best we have for that position.
Moreover, the continued inclusion of Je-Vaugn Watson at right back while specialist players for the position sit on the bench also illustrates SchÃ¤fer’s incompetence. This experiment has failed miserably and leaves one to wonder the coach’s thinking behind these decisions.
During the World Cup campaign, and even in preparation tournaments such as the Copa America, the team has shown a lack of cutting edge and creativity in the attacking third. The likes of Jobi McAnuff, Giles Barnes and Garath McCleary have failed to consistently deliver the level of vision and attacking craft to unlock defences. Yet, Leon Bailey is ignored despite rave reviews across Europe having being an outstanding performer at Belgian outfit Genk. Equally interesting, is the fact that Allan Ottey, for example, has been included in many of the squads selected by SchÃ¤fer, but has not been given a fair chance to prove if he can do any worse than his peers.
It can be argued that the success of a team is hugely dependent on the quality and depth of the squad, but apparently Coach SchÃ¤fer does not have any belief in the other players outside of the 14 or 16 that he generally plays, and the others are just there to make up numbers. It is rather disheartening the fact that Jamaica still does not have a football identity, despite paying millions of dollars to a coach to develop this. The "kick and run style" that we are trying to play is archaic and has no place in the modern game.
Where do we go from here?
The first action that is required to move the country’s football forward for Captain Horace Burrell to tender his resignation as JFF boss and allow somebody with a new vision and passion to chart the way forward. We are and will always be extremely grateful for the contribution of the Captain and for the many sacrifices that he has made for the development of the sport. However, it is time for him to hand over the reins as I think his lack of leadership and vision is reflected in the abysmal state of football in the country. I am not calling for his removal because of the failed World Cup attempt, but the overall programme has been stagnant under his leadership. Earlier this year, the U-20 team failed to advance from the first round of the Caribbean qualifying group. This is disgraceful and unacceptable. The problem that we are having is some people believe that without Captain football will be dead in Jamaica, but the nation’s football is bigger than any one individual. We have excellent administrators who can take the programme forward. I have all the confidence that, with a united approach, men like Stewart Stephenson, Carvel Stewart and Orville Powell possess the vision and the skills to move the sport forward. Also, we must axe 90 per cent of the current squad and start building a team of primarily younger players with a few elder statesmen to serve as mentors, and this should be done with Miguel Coley at the helm. Starting all over again will be rough, but these changes are necessary if we will ever appear on the big stage again.