So, Jamaica’s men’s Under-17 football program has taken another hit after the young Reggae Boyz crashed out of the CONCACAF Qualifying phase currently underway in Bradenton, Florida.
The youngsters finished third behind Mexico and Trinidad and Tobago in the preliminary phase after going down 0-1 and 2-3 respectively, before scraping a 4-2 victory over Bermuda.
In the first knockout phase, they were sent packing 1-2 by El Salvador.
Losing a tournament is one thing, as one should always remember that nothing is guaranteed in life and Jamaica has no divine right to automatic qualification to any football tournament. In fact, no country or team has any such rights.
But what bothers me most of all was the naïve manner in which the players went about their business.
Without any fear of contradiction, it is my firm belief that Jamaica’s squad was the least tactically aware and prepared in the four matches they participated in.
There was the innate athleticism and individual skill by a few, but as a coordinated group pulling for each other and in sync, they were miles behind their opponents.
This has been Jamaica’s Achilles heel for a very long time, which has yet to be adequately addressed by successive administrations, despite the intermittent successes.
The late Captain Horace Burrell in the late 1990s had signed an agreement with the Joan Duncan Foundation, a part of the JMMB family, which sponsored coaching courses since 2009.
This was aimed at structurally qualifying coaches through the various levels into internationally accepted standards.
However, despite the hundreds who have graduated and are functional in the system, the product on the field of play has not, many would argue, risen to the desired standard, for too many of our teams appear disorganized and tactically unaware, while individual players appear unaware of their specific roles and functions.
In short, the teams appear to lack proper football education.
But all is not lost. Or at least we hope so, for there is too much talent residing in the country for someone somewhere not to come to its rescue.
So, we are hoping that the local governing body, the Jamaica Football Federation and AS Roma can quickly reach a deal where the Italian club can assist the country with coaching education and player development.
The two met at the offices of the JFF on Tuesday afternoon and President Mike Ricketts hopeful.
“We are trying to forge a relationship with AS Roma in keeping with the JFF mandate of developing our youth programs, Ricketts told the Jamaica Observer newspaper, after the meeting brokered by Lorne Donaldson, the senior Reggae Girlz assistant coach.
“We were specifically discussing coaches’ exchange programs, strengthening our coaching programs and educating our coaches so they can educate other coaches. The discussions are pretty much advanced, and we are at the point now where we just need to get some details together, and then we’ll sign a memorandum of understanding.
“We have always thought that our coaches for our youth have not always been at the level they ought to be, and I’ve always thought that at the age of 10 and 12 we must get the best coaches. If not, they’ll start on the wrong footing,” Ricketts explained to the Jamaican newspaper.
The JFF boss also made it clear that officials from AS Roma would have the chance to scout talent across the island, in essence becoming a feeder for the Serie A giants.
“We certainly would benefit from this whole program of harnessing our youngsters, and they, of course, would extract from that group and have their talents further developed. They would have the first choice for these players they would have helped us to develop,” the JFF boss further explained.
The opening of a football academy, with support from AS Roma, is also part of the plan.
“We’re excited and hopefully we can do some important stuff in Jamaica. Jamaica will benefit greatly from our know-how and our record of training players and our whole football system,” claimed Alex Zecca, AS Roma director of football development.
He was optimistic, based on what he already knows about Jamaican footballers.
“They have a lot of already good talent and we’re gonna help develop them, hopefully. We’ll train players, we’ll make them better and we’ll get to see them first-hand. We saw quite a bit of film before we came here to prepare for the meetings, so we have a pretty good handle on the level. Individually, it’s very good, very raw, but it needs work and we’re prepared to do it.” Zecca noted.
For many, the JFF may be encroaching on the club’s territory in that regard, but for me whatever they can do better drive the development of the young players, then they need to do it.
For what is certain is that the present program in place is not optimizing player development.