Western Grandstand : Time to treat sport properly

July 15, 2017
Jamaica goalkeeper Andre Blake, (left), clears the ball during a CONCACAF Gold Cup match against Curacao in San Diego, on Sunday. Jamaica won the match 2-0. (AP Photo)

Western Bureau:

Having travelled around and seen the quality of the football facilities in Europe and South America, I believe it is grossly unfair to criticise our local footballers, who are being asked to develop their game under scandalous conditions.

While watching the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup game between Jamaica and CuraÁao, I think I may have caused my neighbours to question my sanity as I reacted angrily, with words that my mother would find offensive, as I watched the Reggae Boyz struggle to properly utilise ideal playing conditions.

In reflecting on the game, it dawned on me that having developed their game, on the atrocious surfaces in Jamaica, the players probably felt out of place as they were not getting the unnatural bounce they are accustomed to and were struggling to make the adjustment.

 

GREATEST SPORTING NATION

 

Based on the way our athletes have managed to conquer the world in sports, such as cricket, athletics and even football, I believe if we had the right facilities we would be the greatest sporting nation on the planet.

In fact, it is sometimes hard to fathom how we have managed to produce the fastest man and woman in athletics when proper running tracks are in short supply here. Even today, 12 years after he became the most important face in global athletics, other athletes in Usain Bolt's home parish of Trelawny are still running on dirt and grass.

The same could be said of Elaine Thompson, whose Banana Ground home district, in Manchester, is several hours away from the nearest standard running track, the G.C. Foster College in St Catherine.

Like Bolt and Thompson, who have placed Jamaica at the pinnacle of global track and field, our footballers are trapped in conditions that are not conducive to mastering basic skills such as controlling and passing the ball properly. In many instances, our players are more worried about falling and being seriously hurt than trying to give their all.

When one considers what sport has done for Jamaica, I believe it is an absolute disgrace that after 55 years of Independence, during which our athletes have won more Olympic Games and IAAF World Championship medals than any other small nation; qualified for a senior FIFA World Cup and produced so many global superstars in cricket, our only sporting facility worth talking about is the National Stadium.

The Government needs to stop paying lip service to sport and come forward with a national sports policy, which should have the creation of at least one A Class sport facility in each parish as a priority. Sport is a global multibillion-dollar industry and if we play our cards right, we are well positioned to get a fat slice of the cake.

I believe that in the same way we have engaged the Chinese to build highways we could utilise their engineering skills to build the stadia I am proposing. With 14 major stadia across the country, we would immediately be in a position to host major international sporting events.

It would be a great shame if we continue to labour along solely on talent and allow those around us who are busily investing in infrastructure to catch up to us, and surge pass as they appear to be doing in football, based on what has been happening in the Caribbean tournaments in recent years.

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