KINGSTON, Jamaica – A young British footballer's curiosity about the disadvantages of youth players in his father's native Jamaica has led to the setting up of a foundation to assist in grassroot development of the sport on the island.
Nine-year-old Junior Thompson, the cousin of Reggae Boy Demarai Gray, launched the JR Thompson Foundation to provide the tools to develop young footballers in Jamaica.
Junior, who lives in Birmingham, England, told OBSERVER ONLINE that because football is his safe space, he wishes for every child to experience that same joy.
“I just want to make a change. I just want everybody [young footballers] in Jamaica to have the same opportunities and develop the same potential I have,” Junior said.
Born of a British mother and Jamaican dad, Junior started playing football when he was a five-year-old. Currently playing for Wolverhampton Wanderers Academy, he questioned why young Jamaican footballers oftentimes don’t play in professional academies such as those in England.
Additionally, his grandmother, who hails from May Pen, Clarendon would tell him stories about his privileges in comparison to some children in Jamaica. This curiosity sparked the creation of the JR Thompson Foundation this year.
Junior’s mother, Nadia said he just wants to put a smile on other children’s faces.
“…That just makes me so proud and it means I’m bringing my son up properly to care about other people…We understand that it takes a lot to become a professional footballer. Especially with the Jamaican team, a lot of the players are outsourced and Junior asked why and I said maybe they don’t have the resources in Jamaica yet to get the academies going…but if we can help to make a change, we will,” she said.
To achieve this, Nadia said she has contacted the Jamaica Football Foundation to identify schools in Kingston that are in need of aid, adding that organisations in England have opted to help in any way possible.
Boots, footballs, shin pads, kits and goals are some of the items that will be donated.
“What I’ve got to do now is continue reaching out to organisations, especially where Junior plays now at Wolverhampton Wanderers and I’m gonna speak to them because they have a lot of players who donate boots,” Nadia told OBSERVER ONLINE.
She added that Gray will chime in with assistance.
“He’s [Demarai] definitely gonna help us spread the word. Demarai’s input and as a whole family, as a team together we can try to make something positive for Jamaica and get them playing football just like the ones in England. Nothing is impossible,” she added.
Other Caribbean and overseas countries will also benefit from the foundation’s initiatives.
“We are looking at countries like Haiti, Cuba, Monserrat and so on. But it’s definitely gonna be a thing where we help mainly Caribbean countries to start with and then we’ll venture into the world. Last but not least, we offer it to children at home. So, we’re going full circle and doing some positive work,” Nadia noted.
Anyone who wishes to offer donations or assistance can contact the JR Thompson Foundation on social media platforms @jrthompson1314.