'Barcelona style' and poor playing surfaces

Saturday, December 01, 2012

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Those who are acquainted with him wouldn't think of high school football coach Mr Neville 'Bertis' Bell as a 'show-off'.

However, you couldn't miss his sense of pride at the style and quality of football played by his St George's College team during their victory over Hydel High in the urban ISSA/Digicel/Gatorade Manning Cup a week ago.

Said Mr Bell: "We talked about moving the ball, passing the ball, and at the start of the season I asked them (St George's squad members) who played the best football and they said 'Barcelona'. I said, 'let's try to play like Barcelona'... We're not there yet, but it feels good to see them pass the ball around."

This newspaper wishes to applaud Mr Bell for his ambition and endeavour. Too often in football, coaches seek only to win. Those who have watched Mr Bell's teams down the years will recognise a coach who is committed not just to winning, but more so to having his team members play the 'beautiful game' to the best of their ability.

Ultimately, we submit, that ambition to have the game played in the most attractive and efficient way possible should be required of every football coach. The requirement should be even greater in our schools which, after all, are about learning.

But, as Mr Bell awaits the winner of today's all-rural ISSA/Digicel/Gatorade daCosta Cup final between Glenmuir High and St Elizabeth Technical High School, he has found time to give us even more food for thought.

Mr Bell makes the point that the authorities must deal with the terrible surfaces on which our schoolboy footballers are being asked to play. For, in fact, football cannot be properly played on bad fields.

A respected broadcaster and football commentator, Mr Bell explains the situation graphically: "As a spectator you see players missing goals from two yards... But as a commentator, when I look at the replays, just as he was about to kick the ball it bounces up, so it actually hit his shin -- not his fault..."

In other words, Mr Bell recognises that without the relatively good facilities at St George's College, it would have been impossible for him to contemplate the 'Barcelona-style' for his team. Also, many fields with "stones protruding" and "with one blade of grass" are downright dangerous to life and limb.

It's against that backdrop that Mr Bell is now urging the authorities to allow schoolboy football games to be played only on acceptable surfaces.

There was a time when 'reasonable' playing surfaces were so few such an appeal would have been pointless. However, while we are still very far from where we need to be, we believe the situation has improved enough over recent years for the Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) to give serious thought to Mr Bell's suggestion.

For sure, the loss of home advantage would be a powerful incentive for schools to do all in their power to improve their 'yard'.




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