Western Grandstand : Time for football justice in Jamaica

September 23, 2017
New Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president Michael Ricketts (right) speaking with his campaign manager, Hanover Football Association president and Mayor of Lucea Sheridan Samuels (left), before Saturday's vote at the JFF headquarters. Looking on is Gregory Daley, president of the St James Football Association.

The more I hear the football fans in Kingston belly-aching over what they claim was an unwise decision by the affiliates of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to select Michael Ricketts as the federation's new president, the happier I am that the Clarendon man got the job.

The uncomplimentary views being expressed with regard to Rickett's presidency betray the fear that he might try to change the status quo with regard to the age-old, but unwise, belief of many that Kingston is Jamaica and the Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA) is more important than the other 12 parish associations.

Ambassador Stewart Stephenson possesses most of the qualities that I would like to see in a JFF president. What worries me about him is the thought that he may not have the capacity to stand up against those in Kingston who would want him to represent the interests of only Kingston.

There is no question that over the years, the rural parishes have suffered at the hands of Kingston administrators, who see them only as votes when it comes to election time. In fact, for many years, once your address is beyond the borders of St Catherine, you instantly became a second-class citizen in the halls of power in Jamaica's football.

While it might be true that some of our rural parish presidents have been known to put their personal interests above the interests of the parish they were elected to serve, there is also no doubt that regardless of how they conduct themselves, their first obligation should be to represent the best interests of their affiliates - clubs, referees, and players.

With rural Jamaica's football, except for western Jamaica on occasions, languishing on the back burner for many years, I do hope that Ricketts realises that having been ushered into office via eight rural votes, he has an obligation to bring high visibility to parishes like Hanover, St Elizabeth, St Mary, Portland, and St Thomas, which all need attention.

I have been around Jamaica's football for long enough to realise that KSAFA is not powerful and strong because of better administrators or more talented players, but simply because of the lack of equity in the sharing of resources. It would, therefore, be foolish for any rural administrator not to want to change a system that has been so unkind to them.

Over recent years, schools such as Rusea's High in Hanover and St Elizabeth Technical High in St Elizabeth have been churning out gifted young footballers with regularity. Yet many of these players fail to realise their potential simply because their parish is locked out of the Kingston-dominated Red Stripe Premier League.

If we are to end the haemorrhaging of good rural talent, Ricketts and the other rural administrators must seek to create a platform of fundamental fairness with regard to the distribution of resources to all parishes. It would be a travesty of justice to have the old system continue.

Rural administrators such as Hanover FA president Sheridan Samuels, who was quite a talented striker in his teenage years, must know what it is like to be bypassed for national selection not because of talent, but because of where you live in Jamaica.

While it might be true that many rural players, especially from western Jamaica, have managed to break into national football in recent years, we must not lose sight of the fact that it only started happening for them when persons such as former JFF vice-president Wesmore Thomas and former Westmoreland FA boss Frank 'Bim' Williams took on the football powers in Kingston and demanded justice for the players in the west.

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