LAST month in this space we spoke of the exciting journey up ahead for Jamaica’s women’s football after the senior Reggae Girlz comfortably reached the Concacaf round of qualifiers for the Fifa World Cup Finals next year.
Back then, Jamaica topped their Caribbean group to join Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, women’s football powerhouse United States, and Canada in the Concacaf Group of eight.
We spoke then of our optimism that the team has what is required to yet again make it to football’s highest stage, after doing it for the first time for the France 2019 edition.
Over the last two weeks the Under-17 Reggae Girlz provided more reason for optimism about the future of Jamaica’s women’s football when they reached the quarter-finals of the age group Concacaf World Cup qualifying tournament in the Dominican Republic.
The young Girlz lost 0-4 to age group champions United States in their quarter-final clash, but overall they showed promising talent and plenty of mettle against Concacaf opponents, not least the powerful highly ranked Canada with whom they drew 1-1.
Then came deflating news last week of a crisis which could very easily derail the senior Reggae Girlz’ World Cup qualifying programme.
Make no mistake, the letter to the executive of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), signed by 20 members of the senior Reggae Girlz voicing a total lack of confidence in interim Head Coach Mr Vin Blaine and his staff, is a bombshell.
Essentially, senior professionals, including several who were part of the acclaimed group which qualified for the 2019 World Cup, have alleged in forthright fashion that the coaching staff is unprofessional and incapable of guiding them to success this time around.
They cannot “commit” to continuing if the situation remains as is, the players said in their letter.
We are aware of no precedence for the current situation at the level of a national football team in Jamaica or anywhere else.
It will be recalled that Mr Blaine — who had a previous stint as national coach for the women’s programme some years ago — took over coaching duties at short notice late last year. That followed the suspension of Mr Hubert Busby following allegations of sexual misconduct — denied by him — while he was head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2010-11.
The Michael Ricketts-led JFF now finds itself between a rock and a hard place as it seeks to probe the issues brought up by the players in their letter and navigate a way forward. All of this in the context of very little time before the Concacaf round of World Cup qualifiers in July.
Mr Blaine has said he is “contemplating” his future. But given the gravity of the complaints made about him and his staff, he and the current squad of players appear unlikely to have a future together.
And how does the JFF treat with the players, given their posture? Whatever Mr Ricketts and his team decide, the challenge of ensuring a dangerous precedence is avoided will weigh heavily.
At bottom line, the JFF must seek to protect the future and good name of Jamaica’s football — not just with a view to World Cup qualification, but for the long term.