Western Grandstand - Good move ‘Tappa’, football is not all
It is really nice to know that Cornwall College's star striker, Jourdaine Fletcher, has got his much-deserved call-up to the national senior team and is now poised to become an official Reggae Boy in Jamaica's upcoming friendly games against the United States and Honduras.
Having demonstrated in no uncertain manner during the recent schoolboy football season that he is easily the best young striker in Jamaica, there was never any doubt in my mind that he would have earned a national call, joining the illustrious list of 'ballers' who played for the senior national team as schoolboys.
While I fully understand the disappointment, especially here in western Jamaica, when he was not named in the original squad that was announced, I was most disappointed in the persons who sought to vilify national coach Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, accusing him of 'fighting against the youth' without trying to find out why Fletcher was not called.
Based on discussions I have had with Whitmore, Fletcher was in his plans long before the fans started calling for his inclusion. In fact, the coach had been busily working behind the scenes to put the requisite measures in place for Fletcher to join the training squad without it having any detrimental effects on his attendance at school.
In explaining the path he was taking, Whitmore said that recognising that the youngster was at a crucial stage in his school life, with external examination on the horizon, he did not want to call him into the training squad until provision could be made for him to attend school while training in Kingston.
Whitmore did not leave the matter solely in the hands of the Jamaica Football Federation but took an integral role in the process, personally doing some of the negotiations with the administration at Cornwall College, where Fletcher is a final-year student.
Personally, I was most impressed with the manner in which Whitmore handled the situation with Fletcher. If more of our coaches, especially those at the schoolboy level, were showing that type of wholesome interest in the youngsters they coach, many of our gifted footballers who have fallen by the wayside after leaving school could now be success stories.
As I walk around Montego Bay daily, I see many former schoolboy stars, some of whom were just as talented as Fletcher, living a miserable life with very little hope of clawing their way into usefulness. I know Whitmore is seeing these youngsters too, because, like me, he lives in Montego Bay.
In addition to the youngsters who have fallen by the wayside and might now be finding out, belatedly, that football holds no special guarantee for success in life, regardless of whether one was a star at the youth level, every effort must be made to advance a good education as a worthwhile option.
As I stated above, it is nice to see Fletcher in the national squad with the requisite provision in place for him to attend classes at the University of the West Indies while he is in Kingston. I do hope that his football stocks will continue to rise so that one day he may end up doing for Jamaica's football what the great Usain Bolt has done for the nation's track and field.
As Whitmore sets out on the difficult task of seeking to rebuild Jamaica football, I hope he takes the same caring approach to getting the entire team ready and clicking, as he did with Fletcher. He showed in his previous stints as coach that he has what it takes to do a good job so I am ready to give him my full support.