New coach sounds good, but JFF should speak
Newly appointed head coach of Jamaica's senior men's football team Heimir Hallgrímsson (left) is presented with a national team jersey which he and and Jamaica Football Federation President Michael Ricketts display during a press conference in Kingston on Friday, September 16, 2022. (Photo: Naphtali Junior)

THE arrival of Icelander, Mr Heimir Hallgrimsson as Reggae Boyz head coach is a development of well nigh seismic proportions.

Iceland, a volcanic Nordic island with a population of less than 370,000 people, had little or no tradition at the highest level of football until its women's team qualified for the UEFA Women's Euro in 2009. Iceland's women repeated that achievement in 2013 and 2017.

The men's team with Mr Hallgrimsson and Swede, Mr Lars Lagerback, at the helm, advanced to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.

Relying on solid defence and rapid counter-attacks, Mr Hallgrimsson was in charge as Iceland reached the World Cup finals in 2018, becoming the smallest nation ever to do so.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) is now banking on Mr Hallgrimsson's unmatched experience in achieving World Cup qualification with a small country operating on limited resources.

It's been 24 years since Jamaica's only participation in a senior men's World Cup finals tournament — France 1998.

Few back then anticipated the drought to come.

Yet, Brazilian Mr Rene Simoes, who guided the Reggae Boyz to France, had warned that Jamaica's success was akin to putting the roof on a building without first erecting the foundation.

He meant that Jamaica's football in the late 1990s lacked structure, professionalism, and basic resources such as decent playing surfaces and other facilities for players and spectators.

Much of those inadequacies remain. Indeed, a repeated complaint has been the tendency to lurch from one World Cup campaign to the next without paying sufficient attention to necessary, business-like football development.

Yet, we know that qualifying for a World Cup provides a tremendous boon to football and the Jamaican brand. None with memories of 1998 can deny that.

For sure, Mr Hallgrimsson has started well. His move to restore Reggae Boyz captain and first-choice goalkeeper Mr Andre Blake to the squad to face Argentina later this month suggests a man who knows his own mind and means business.

We note his assertion in the context of turmoil in Jamaica's football that there must be "a clean slate", a fresh start, with all concerned required to let bygones be bygones; that all, including players and administrators, should embrace a professional approach.

We applaud the new coach's pledge to play his part in improving the standard of coaching.

We believe his stated intention to fully acquaint himself with Jamaican culture is sensible. Many, in varying spheres, have fallen short because of inadequate cultural awareness.

We believe Mr Hallgrimsson has come at the right time — at the start of the four-year World Cup cycle. Too often new coaches have found themselves with insufficient time.

There are questions to be answered: Where is the money to come from and how much will be required to cover the expenses of the new coach and his staff? We ask in the context of former interim coach Mr Paul Hall's revelation that he is yet to be fully compensated for his efforts.

We have heard that the JFF is heavily indebted and, as far as we know, there has not been a settlement with former General Secretary Mr Dalton Wint.

The JFF needs to speak.

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