Adrian Frater | JFF should try the Cavalier model
As one who strongly believes that the future of Jamaica's football lies in the hands of our best young talents, I believe it would serve the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) well if it copies the model Rudolph Speid, the technical director of Cavalier Soccer Club, has embraced by drafting several gifted young players into his team's Red Stripe Premier League (RSPL) campaign.
While I have nothing against the older players, I believe that if a 17-year-old player is at the same technical level as a 30 year old, it would be foolish to bypass the youngster, who is likely to get better as he matures, in favour of an older player, who has either peaked or about to reach his peak.
It should be instructive to note that despite the array of talent at his disposal, Vicente Feola, the coach of the all-conquering 1958 Brazilian team, decided to select a 17-year-old Pele for the FIFA World Cup in Sweden because he saw his awesome potential. History proved him right as the gifted youngster subsequently became the greatest player in his generation and one of the greatest players of all time.
I believe what Speid is seeing in talented youngsters such as Jamoi Topey, Jeadine White and Kaheem Parris, who all played schoolboy football in the recently concluded 2017 season, is the very same thing that Feola saw in the young Pele when he took him to the World Cup, where he emerged as a global star at the end of the tournament.
Outside of his clear belief that the youngsters drafted in at Cavalier will be able to measure up to the so-called 'big man' football, I believe Speid is also cognisant of the fact that, from a business perspective, a gifted teenager is far more marketable than a veteran player and is more likely to be recruited by a talent scout.
While I am sure that Speid would be happy to win the RSPL because of the symbolism of being crowned national champions, I nonetheless believe it would mean more to him to attract a Leon Bailey-like contract for one of his talented young players because that would create the financial platform to transform Cavalier from just another club into a great club.
I strongly believe that the clubs that are now campaigning in the RSPL should be viewing the league as a gateway to bigger and better opportunities for their players rather than just a hunt for trophies. After spending at least $15 million annually on team preparation and the salaries of players, the measly $3 million prize money and the RSPL trophy could not be all that the competing teams are vying for.
I do hope that Wendell Downswell, the new director of national football, is looking at what is happening at Cavalier with a view of mirroring what Speid is doing. If we are serious about really building our football and creating opportunities for our players, we need to start investing in the youngsters with a view of developing a sustainable national programme.
In fact, I believe Downswell should be seeking to get the JFF to make it mandatory that all the clubs participating in the RSPL must have a minimum of two Under-17 players on their starting team for every single game. After two or three years of that kind of exposure, if these players are of the right mettle, they should start catching the eyes of the national coach.
If we really want our young players to develop quickly, we must provide them with the requisite exposure to do so. The good ones will not only catch the eyes of the national coach, but should also be in line to go professional while we will also be able to identify those who are not good enough quickly so that we do not end up wasting good resources on them.
While it might be true that some players are late-bloomers and might not readily show their fullest potential at age 17 or 18, I do not believe we should embrace any system where we slow down those who are ready to explode to facilitate those who are not coming through quickly. If the late-bloomers become good enough over time, they should be able to hop on the train further down the track.