As we come to the end of October, football fans in Jamaica are being treated to a plethora of quality football via cable and free-to-air television. The English Premier League (EPL), Spanish League, German, and Italian leagues are all available, as well as our local Premier League, schoolboy football here and in the Caribbean and a “smidgen” of women’s football. What more could we ask for?
Most of the fans who watch these games have some degree of loyalty to one or more of the different teams on show, but, I do believe that deep down fans are desperate for a chance to support and cheer for a winning national aggregation of our local “stars”.
The two best Jamaican footballers at present ply their trade in Europe. Raheem Sterling and Leon Bailey are both creating waves in the English and German leagues with their goal scoring ability and all round positional play. What if? What if we could see one or both of these players donning the national colours as part of the Reggae Boyz amalgamation? The thought of such a possibility is so mouth-watering and attractive, that hitherto calm and well-reasoned analysts are seemingly abandoning calm and reasoned analysis in the desperate hope that one day….. one day our Reggae Boyz could be on the world stage having successfully gone through the rounds and qualified for the World Cup Finals.
Well, we can qualify once again for the World Cup Finals. The possibility of more nations from the CONCACAF region getting automatic berths in the Finals, coupled with the “new” Jamaica Football Federation philosophy of developing and utilizing LOCALLY born and bred players can result in the ultimate achievement. However, not with Raheem Sterling and Leon Bailey on the team. Let us be real. Raheem Sterling has already turned us down, and even though he is still a regular visitor, (and investor), he has decided that his fortunes regarding International football reside in England.
With Leon Bailey, one is not so sure. There are reports that some family members are anxious to see him in the black, green and gold of his country, but those family members do not have any say in the future of this football wizard. His agent and “father”, Craig Butler, is the sole determinant in where he goes and who he plays for. That is clear and must be fully understood.
Craig Butler identified and developed a group of locally born and bred youngsters and formed the Phoenix Academy. His unusual and unorthodox ways did not, and have not won him any friends among the hierarchy of local football. He was sure of what he had and was developing. No one else did! As a result, he took his idea and youngsters to Europe, where they are playing regular football and earning sums that are unheard of in local football.
Now that Leon is on top of the world, everyone has come calling, and as a shrewd businessman (football agents HAVE to be shrewd businessmen), he is seeking to maximize his and the members of his academy’s financial future and security. How he is going about it may offend some and alienate others, but in the business of football agents, I am not aware of any who are loved and welcomed by all with whom they negotiate.
The question is: you want what I have, and I want what you have. What are you prepared to give up, and what am I prepared to give up so that we BOTH win! That is the bald fact of negotiation between club and country with agents. Nothing more, nothing less. Jamaica and the JFF know what Craig Butler wants. The question is: What are we prepared to give in order to secure the services of Leon Bailey? Looking on at the posture and oral responses from the present hierarchy of the JFF, I am of the opinion that Leon Bailey will not don the black, green and gold this year or next year. In two years? What do you think?