Editorial

Amateurism hindering Jamaica's football

Saturday, May 06, 2017

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'Harsh Reality' written by deputy sports editor Mr Sean Williams and published on May 2 puts the case bluntly.The article suggested that Jamaica's Under-17 footballers were “out of their league” during their recent failed campaign in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in Panama.

Though the young Jamaicans defeated El Salvador 3-1, they were “outmatched in every respect” by USA (0-5) and Mexico (1-5) in Group C of the qualifying campaign.

As has become customary, we are told that the other teams — even vanquished El Salvador — were far better prepared than the young Jamaicans.

So that while the Jamaicans played six international practice games — all on home soil — against USA, Canada and Cuba, the Under-17 Americans played 30 international games before making the trip to Panama.

Of course, this business of pre-tournament preparation turns on the availability of resources. While the USA's football federation can provide plenty of material and other support for teams at all levels, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) are paupers by comparison.

Readers will recall that on the very few occasions when Jamaica age-group teams have made it to FIFA world tournaments, preparation included extensive training stints abroad.

In reality though, as the article by Mr Williams makes clear, the issue is even more fundamental than that. He points out that while the majority of Under-17 players from USA, Mexico and El Salvador are professionals linked to clubs, the Jamaicans are amateurs involved in schoolboy competitions.

The article tells us that “all three of Jamaica's opponents had most, if not all, of their players attached to professional clubs in their countries or overseas.

“On the match rosters of the CONCACAF tournament, Jamaica's players are identified and linked only to their schools, even though some have links to semi-professional or amateur clubs on the island.

“But that's the essence of the story and the reality, that Jamaica's players are really just schoolboy footballers — lagging behind in terms of conducive environments that encourage quantum development of teen players”.

Of course, none of this is new. It's a discussion that has gone on for years — how to lift Jamaica's football to another level in the absence of a truly professional environment.

Popular as the local schoolboy football competitions are, schools are not equipped to prepare our most talented teenaged footballers to get to that much desired higher level.

It seems to this newspaper that until Jamaica's football family can find a way to bring true professionalism to the sport, complete with well-equipped academies for age-group talent, this country will, for the most part, continue to be 'also rans' in the CONCACAF region as well as on the global stage.

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