Western Grandstand : Let’s rescue rural football with Ricketts
Today is the day 13 parish associations affiliated to the Jamaica Football Association (JFF) will have the important task of selecting a new president to fill the void created by the recent death of Captain Horace Burrell, and I am just hoping and praying that they will treat this awesome responsibility wisely.
Looking at the two men vying for this important job, I believe that both Stewart Stephenson, who has made an indelible mark on football in KSAFA; and Michael Ricketts, who has championed the development of youth football in Clarendon; have solid credentials.
However, as much as I respect Stephenson, I am rooting for Ricketts because while Stewart's credentials are good, I am fearful that being so close to some of the powerful personalities in KSAFA, who clearly have no interest in seeing rural Jamaica's football rise, he may fall victim to their ongoing machinations to destabilise rural football.
I can't see Ricketts not standing up for rural parishes, which have been offered no more than a back seat in Jamaica's football since the Anthony 'Tony' James-era when men like Frank 'Bim' Williams and Wesmore Thomas were called upon regularly to face off with the KIngstonians to ensure that rural Jamaica was treated with respect.
In fact, had it not been for the foundation laid by James, Williams and Thomas, players such as Alton 'Noah' Sterling, Paul 'Tegat' Davis, Winston 'Twinny Bug' Anglin and Hector Wright would not have got a chance to lay the foundation which created the platform for Warren Barrett, Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, Durrant 'Tatty' Brown and Stephen 'Shorty' Malcolm to come to the fore and become World Cup heroes.
Over the years, I have seen many talented players from western and central Jamaica suffer at the hands of individuals in KSAFA, who simply bypassed them for national selection in favour of less talented players who got to wear the national colours simply because of where they lived and the teams they represented.
CALLING THE SHOTS
I know that there are some very nervous people in Kingston at this time who are quite fearful that their days of manipulating national football to serve their selfish interests are coming to an end. I just hope the rural parishes, having been given the chance to call the shots due to new voting arrangements, will not waste this precious opportunity to finally rescue themselves from the claws of KSAFA.
Having seen how several parish associations operated during the Burrell era, I know the interest of their affiliates are not always at the forefront of the decision-making. However, after seeing how Kingston has manipulated club football to transform the Red Stripe Premier League into a KSAFA-dominated competition, I hope they will not be conned into believing the one football family nonsense which usually makes the rounds at election time.
As far as I am concerned, this is the golden opportunity for the rural parishes to finally say "enough is enough" and go for levelling of the playing field. This is a chance that should not be blown because we need to start laying the right foundation to create real opportunities for every talented young player from every parish in Jamaica. We have blighted and slighted them for far too long.
I hope that should he win, Ricketts' first order of business would be to dismantle the PLCA and reform the national premier league in a manner similar to what the CONCACAF is proposing to professionalise club football in the region. The 'old boy' arrangement and the one man with a deep pocket arrangement has outlived its usefulness and we should not allow it to continue to fester in Jamaica.
As I stated above, I believe Stephenson is a good man, and if it was he who was waving the rural banner, I would be batting for him. However, my main interest is to see a system where KSAFA's influence is no greater than that of Westmoreland, Hanover, St James, Trelawny, St Elizabeth, St Ann, St Mary, Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine, Portland, and St Thomas, so I have to support Ricketts.