Western Grandstand | Encouraged by the new JFF administration
While some persons are clearly uncomfortable with the fact that Michael Ricketts was recently elevated to the presidency of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), especially since he did not enjoy the support of the powerful Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA), I think I am liking what I am seeing so far of his new administration.
After the uncertain steps by the late Captain Horace Burrell with regard to taking the interim tag off Theodore 'Tappa' Whitmore, and make him full-time head coach of the national senior football team, the new administration has now confirmed him in the position for the next two years, which means he now has the freedom to work, minus the pressure that uncertainty would have placed on him.
In fact, I believe the full-time appointment of Dalton Wint as the federation's new general secretary, Wendell Downswell as the new director of national football, and confirming Jerome Waite as Whitmore's deputy, clearly indicate that, while not employing a lot of flamboyance, the new administration has its wits about it in terms of creating a cohesive unit to drive our football development.
With regard to Whitmore and Waite, their passion for the game and their patriotism cannot be questioned, and in that light, and the fact that they seem to genuinely enjoy the respect and support of the current crop of national players, I believe our senior football is in competent hands and should soon begin to see the redemption we have been hoping for since the dip after our historic 1998 campaign, which took us to the FIFA World Cup in France.
With regard to Downswell's appointment, I am particularly pleased that the JFF did not buckle to the blustering of Craig Butler, who clearly wanted the job under conditions which no reputable administration could accept without opening up itself to the kind of backlash which could harm its credibility.
While bypassing Butler might mean we may never see rising star Leon Bailey donning the national colours, the truth is, if the JFF hopes to be viewed as a credible organisation, it must operate in a manner that it does not open itself up to the kind of manipulation which basically left the Burrell administration in a bind with the Premier League Clubs Association, which over time evolved into being its own masters.
As for Wint, while I know very little about him, I am very encouraged by the fact that he has given a commitment to push for a franchise system in Jamaica's football, which Burrell was advancing as a replacement for the Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL), which is more of an extra arm of KSAFA, instead of a true national competition.
As president of a rural football association (Manchester), which has no RSPL representation, Wint must be cognisant of the fact that any competition that marginalises as many rural parishes as the RSPL currently does cannot be a good nursery to expose the best of the nation's talent. I hope the new administration will back him in this ambitious endeavour, which had proven to be an insurmountable challenge to Burrell.
While some people would like us to believe that all the good football is being played in Kingston, I am not buying into that falsehood. At the schoolboy level, there is very little difference between the rural and urban players once the right variables, such as age, are applied. So, if the same level of exposure is provided after these youngsters graduate from schoolboy football, I see no reason why the urban boys should not keep pace with their urban counterparts beside the lack of opportunity for advancement.
I believe time and history has placed persons like Ricketts, Wint, Downswell, Whitmore and Waite in the right position to make Jamaica's football a credible product. I believe they would be doing a great disservice to our football if they did not use this opportunity to create an inclusive product that will open the door of opportunity to talented players in all 14 parishes.
In the 1980s, many persons were operating under the same misconception that the football in Kingston is far superior to the rest of the island. It took the inaugural 'Battle of the City' clash between St James and Kingston to destroy that myth, as players such as Alton 'Noah' Sterling, Paul 'Tegat' Davis, Noel 'Bram' King and Paul 'Tegat' Davis proved that they were not only as good as their Kingston counterparts but in many ways far better.