Western Grandstand : Arnett’s win, a victory for good football
I had planned to use last week's column to congratulate Arnett Gardens on winning the coveted 2016-17 Red Stripe Premier League title (RSPL). However, the death of Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) boss, Captain Horace Burrell, caused me to put those plans on hold.
As readers of this column would have known, I started the season rooting for Montego Bay United Football Club (MBUFC) to retain the title which they won under trying circumstances last year.
However, I can't say that I am too disappointed that Arnett Gardens won because I believe they did enough to be called deserving champions.
For me, Arnett's win was not just for the players, their community and their loyal supporters, but a victory for good football, resilience, self-belief and a hunger for success. While it might be true that if the format were different they probably would not have won, they did not create the format and they won what was before them.
I believe that MBUFC operated at a significant disadvantage throughout the season, on account of being treated unfairly by the Premier League Clubs Association (PLCA). I also sympathise with Humble Lion, who topped the preliminary phase, as well as Portmore United FC, who appeared quite jaded in the finals following their tough campaign in the CONCACAF Club Championships.
However, full credit must go to Arnett for the way they played in the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and especially the final.
In the final, they ran Portmore into the ground with relentless pace, refusing to give them any breathing space to regroup. In fact, once Portmore fell behind in the game, the 'Junglists' meticulously sucked the energy out of them, leaving them without the capacity to fight back.
If I were to criticise MBUFC for any significant weakness during the season, it would have to be the fact that, unlike Arnett, they played at very lazy pace, which was a noticeable departure from the previous season, when they used the athleticism of players such as Dino Williams, Allan Ottey, Jermaine Woozencraft and Owayne Gordon to both intimidate and overpower opponents.
I believe Arnett Garden's coach, Jerome Waite, deserves special credit for the way he prepared the Arnett Gardens team to be robust, speedy and confident. While they were probably not the most talented team in the league, no one could question their commitment and their will to win, which was second to none.
With the 2017 season now over, I am hoping that the JFF, in the post-Burrell era, will seek to reclaim the RSPL from the PLCA, which, in my opinion, has badly mismanaged it. If reclaimed, it will give the new leadership a chance to rebuild the league's credibility and give it the respect it deserves. In my opinion, the league has regressed under the stewardship of the PLCA and it would be simply foolish to continue with them.
Under new direction, I believe we might be able to salvage what is left of Jamaica's football and reposition it as a nursery to produce national players, which it admirably did in the era leading up to our historic qualification for the 1998 World Cup in France.
I will forever refuse to accept that a league which does not feature the vast m=`ajority of the nation's parishes can be justifiably called a national premier league.