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Congrats, Clarendon, but beware indiscipline

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Now into its final month, the 2017 schoolboy football season has provided much excitement to go with disappointment and joy.

Jamaica College, highly successful in recent years under the guidance of coach, Mr Miguel Coley, have stamped their mark on the 2017 season by winning the Kingston-based knock-out competition, the Walker Cup.

Clarendon College have done likewise, grabbing the rural equivalent of the Walker Cup, the Ben Francis Cup.

Older fans are particularly intrigued since on the evidence so far, Clarendon College — with one of Jamaica's leading coaches, Mr Lenworth Hyde, as their technical director — are playing a brand of football reminiscent of their side of 1977.

The resemblance should perhaps be expected since Mr Hyde was a star on that '77 side.

Every now and again, since organised schoolboy football first started in Jamaica in 1909, a team has captured the imagination, well beyond school-tie affiliation.

Clarendon College in 1977 was one such. Coached by the irrepressible Mr Winston Chung-Fah and including among a galaxy of stars the ultra-special ball-schemer and goal-scorer Mr Hyde, that Clarendon College side played a possession-based brand of football incorporating short, quick, precision passing, smart off-the-ball movement and deft dribbles which took the breath away.

They scored goals galore, to go with all that.

As it turned out, Clarendon College won all titles on offer in 1977, the all-rural daCosta Cup — beating a powerful St Elizabeth Technical High School in that final and also the all-island Olivier Shield, conquering Calabar High.

The current side may not have captured the public imagination to quite the same extent — at least not yet. But with one title in the bag, they are obviously not just about style but also substance. Late yesterday they were in semi-final action in search of a second title, the Flow Super Cup, with the possibility of the ISSA/F low daCosta Cup and Olivier Shield to come.

Mr Hyde and his coaching staff should be commended for finding the wherewithal to build and hone a team capable of not only winning titles but also playing delightful football. All too often the two elements don't go together.

Yet, even as we applaud, we can't ignore worryingly discordant notes in the Ben Francis Cup semi-final. In the dying minutes of the game, Clarendon College's captain Mr Ricardo McIntosh removed his shirt in celebration of a goal, breaching a well-established FIFA rule and drawing a mandatory yellow card.

Since Mr McIntosh had earlier been shown a yellow card for a serious infringement, the referee was left no option but to eject him. That meant he also missed the final, which fortunately for him, his team won.

Curiously, much earlier in the semi-final, a teammate of Mr McIntosh was also shown a yellow card for removing his shirt in celebration.

We are aware that youngsters mimic their elders and that removal of the shirt, even at the cost of sanction, is something they will have seen at the highest levels of football.

Yet it is absolutely imperative that coaches and handlers keep hammering home to their charges that not everything they see at the highest level should be copied. Just as parents teach their children right from wrong, so too school coaches and officials must provide the best possible guidance for those in their care.