The “most important” election for the Presidency of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) is now over. Michael Ricketts defeated the challenge of my long-time friend and Undergraduate colleague Ambassador Stewart Stephenson. The ones who decide the outcome of the “competition”, the delegates, voted (8 to 5) for Mr. Ricketts. Thus, for the next two years at least, Michael Ricketts IS the President of the JFF.
The President. To me, that means that everyone who loves football, the fans, (me) the players, the administrators, coaches, and support staff of every football team, MUST get behind and support President Ricketts, no matter who you supported during the election preamble, or what you thought of the plusses and minuses of each candidate.
So, the new reign of President Ricketts has begun. There will be no “honeymoon”. As a strategic ploy, our President did not present a manifesto to the public during the campaign as Ambassador Stephenson did. He has promised to outline his plans soon, but even without a clear “plan” OUR President has a lot of early work to do. A lot of pressing problems to confront.
His team at the JFF includes some of those who, in the words of one of his trusted lieutenants, stated that “we mash up football and we won’t allow no guy to come in and fix it. We will fix football” or words to that effect.
Ever since Jamaica’s historic appearance at the 1998 World Cup Finals, the JFF has slavishly followed a policy that failed to return us to that hallowed place. However, after failure in 2002, 2006 and 2010, one could be excused for thinking that the JFF would adjust the “failed “formula, and employ a change of tactics in achieving the ultimate goal. That never happened, despite growing howls of objection and sometimes derision of the President and the JFF. It was only after support of the President in the hallowed halls of FIFA, and a significant loss of “cash that there was a much delayed, and some say ideal, new focus on a local coach and local players, those with real and tangible connection to Jamaica, to develop a squad and ultimately qualify us for the World Cup Finals.
The “new” plan has already provided real and tangible hope that Jamaica can and should be able to qualify for 2022 (hopefully) and 2026 (definitely) editions of the competition. What is needed now is a stated and definite commitment to continue on that path. The early signs are encouraging.
It has been reported that our new President has already attended a meeting of the PLCA, the group with day to day control of the premier football competition in the island. The Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) has begun, albeit three weeks late, and there is news that the groups that had differences in who to pay who or who dissed who, etc, are now seeing eye to eye and committed to a relatively incident free season of top football.
But there is a lot more to do. Our President has to address a potentially crippling debt, which to date hangs as an albatross around the proverbial neck of the JFF while the so-called financial gurus on the board seem to stumble and mumble about plans to reduce and eliminate the debt in the short to mid-term.
Then there is the much debated “Brand Jamaica” type of football that is recognizable, and easy to follow by ALL the coaches and players who are in charge of local football. The recent meeting with the very successful head of the Phoenix Academy, Craig Butler, who has 17 Jamaicans in Europe playing and moving up in different Leagues, earning and playing football at a very high level, is a positive start. A discussion on local radio between Butler and Clyde Jureidini of Harbour View fame revealed an idea that needs debate and, in my opinion, implementation. Both men agree that the way forward for local football is to start at the Under 9 and Under 11 levels. They have suggested that family (home) clubs and to a lesser extent schools in conjunction with the JFF, is where the future lies, not in the Manning and DaCosta Cup competitions where the players reveal an astonishing lack of finesse and tactical skill that can only be corrected by an all island programme of club-driven football coordinated and financed by the JFF.
They articulated that this “formula” is not a new invention, but one that has been proven to be successful in every other country where it has been implemented. The consensus now is that President Ricketts listens, is not confrontational and is the man who can begin this 10-year (at least) project that WILL result in qualification to the World Cup Finals, where the support and finances are waiting. Let the meetings and associations with proven experts and committed Jamaicans begin. I am excited about the future of football for the next two years, at least.