The inability of our Under 23 male footballers to qualify for the next Olympics by failing to beat fellow Caribbean neighbours Dominica and St Kitts is another embarrassment in the management of our football by the present Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).
The array of “stars” on the team assembled under the leadership coach Donovan Duckie, seemed (at the start of the qualification round) invincible. After the shock 1-1 draw with Dominica, the coach and “star” players interviewed oozed confidence as they ALL identified the problem and assured a worried public how easy it would be to guarantee the necessary victory that would enable our young footballers to move on to the next and more difficult round.
The “problem” identified by all concerned was the seeming inability to put the football in the net of the opponents. Our coach readily admitted that the late introduction to the game by the eventual scorer of the tying and face-saving goal against Dominica was one of the easily corrected faults identified in the first game. Little attention was paid to the historical fact that in a previous Under 20 competition St Kitts had eliminated the one-time giants of regional football, Jamaica.
Members of that same St Kitts team had now progressed to the Under 23 level. In reality, they “had our number”. In the must-win game against St Kitts our young footballers scored first, and with uncharacteristic “gay abandon” went on the prowl, presumably to inflict as much pain on our neighbours as possible. Well, St Kitts equalized and, as can be expected from any tournament-savvy coach and players, defended as if their life depended on it and earned the draw that propelled them to the next round of qualifiers.
Donovan Duckie is our coach, given the task of guiding our young footballers to take over from our senior Reggae Boyz as age and injuries take a toll on our seniors who are progressing up the FIFA ladder. He took over the reins of the local team from St Ann, Mount Pleasant, a fully financed amalgamation of some of the best local footballers, under the leadership of Paul “Tegat” Davis.
The “Tegat” led Mount Pleasant qualified for the National Premier League by outscoring their opponents (some would say heavily) and earning a coveted spot in the Premier League. “Tegat” Davis is a previous Reggae Boy who was a prolific scorer while playing for the national team. His philosophy and coaching style led his team to the Premier League. However, with the “big league” now a reality, the management team changed coaches and Donovan Duckie was given the reins.
Donovan Duckie is a relatively successful local coach whose forte appears to be in the fact that if you prevent the other team from scoring, then in a league format “success” is assured. Excellent formula in leagues. However, in qualifying tournaments — where “must-win” games are frequent — scoring, and scoring heavily COUNTS. Draws, 1-0 and 2-1 victories have proven time and time again to be not good enough! The mid-field players MUST move the ball to the opponents’ 18 yard box and TAKE SHOTS at the goal!
Our senior Reggae Boyz, while moving up the FIFA ladder, were eliminated at the semifinal level of the recently concluded Gold Cup. Our Reggae Girls scored one goal in the recently concluded Women’s World Cup and have no local league to generate replacements and give an outlet for new and talented young women to parade their skills, earning kudos and economic benefits while improving our chances of qualifying again for the next World Cup.
The JFF has the task of preparing the nation’s footballers for international competition as well as making sure that local footballers get the opportunity to play and develop. I am simply tired of hearing the President and General Secretary of the JFF complain about “lack of resources”. In the run-up to the election of the President, his opponent, Ambassador Stewart Stephenson, paraded an impressive slate of corporate giants who promised to support his presidency if elected. Mr Ricketts won the election by convincing the voting delegates that he had the necessary financial backative, thus ensuring no future calls (or moans) of “lack of resources”. We now know that that promise by our president was nothing more than an empty ploy to help him win.
Lack of resources IS the bugbear of progress in Jamaica’s football. Our success in being the first Caribbean nation to qualify for the Women’s World Cup is due solely to the benevolence of a private citizen!
We are now a nation faced with the prospect of defeat after defeat in international competition by neighbouring nations who seem to get the necessary resources to allow their nationals to train, play and progress, while we here in Jamaica wring our hands and moan about “lack of resources”. Ambassador Stewart Stephenson, the nation is calling! Where are you?