Photo: Reggae Boyz coach: Winfried Schafer
Despite defying all the odds and qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, the Jamaica National Football Team, commonly called the Reggae Boyz, has struggled to remain competitive regionally and has been woeful, internationally. Reaching the greatest football showpiece was supposed to be the stepping stone and exposure needed, to take the game to another level but the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has failed miserably to develop the game in all aspects. Instead of moving forward it seems as if the football program has taken several steps in the wrong direction and this has been reflected in our current FIFA World Ranking of 100.
The organization and the business of football is no easy task to accomplish, however based on the struggles over the years, it seems there is a lack of knowledge, vision and certainly no long term plan in place. Despite seeing the growth of several other countries in the region and around the rest of the world, the JFF has yet to ‘visibly’ put any plans forward on how to revamp the football program in order to take the game to a competitive level regionally and internationally. With that said, Yardie Sports takes a look at some of the issues facing the national football set-up.
Lack of vision and planning
The experience and exposure gained from World Cup '98 was the ultimate step towards growth but that is purely a fantasy in Jamaican Football. The JFF had seen the structure and organization of other top countries and should have tried to emulate their style. The financial budget may not be the same, however the level of professionalism, structure and planning could have been imitated.
Look at Japan for example, who played in their first World Cup in France along with the Reggae Boys and even suffered defeat at the hands of the Jamaicans. The Japanese invited Brazilian legend Zico and other organizers who put together a program called the J-League: a project for 100 years. Today, the J-League is at a very high level and scouts from all across Europe attend games to sign players for their respective clubs. Japan has players in some of the best teams in Europe, in some of the top leagues and has played in every World Cup since 1998.
In recent times the phrase ‘modern day football’ has been used quite a lot and it is being said that there are 'no secrets' in modern day football. However, the way the JFF operates, many individuals must seriously question those words. The general public has no idea of what the JFF is about and what is their aim. Information is kept away from the society and when questions are being asked the answers are never available. From the utilization of funds to the organization of football camps during international breaks, is a secret.
Many may not realize that the lack of transparency is one of the most significant reasons that the public generally has no interest in Jamaican Football and would rather spend thousands of dollars to support other teams internationally through the purchase of their merchandise. It is also this reason why it will be difficult to attract sponsors who may be willing to invest large sums of money to the program.
The term "philosophy" is also a term that has been used quite often in recent times. The philosophy is the mentality of a team which is synonymous with their style of play. There is a structured approach in the general style of play which is supposed to be flexible enough to change based on the nature of the opposition. The opponents are generally analyzed and the coaching staff should then put together a certain style which they think is good enough to nullify and hurt the opposition based on the way they want the team to play.
In the Jamaican model, there is a haphazard way of playing as the players just seem to run around in circles. Analytically, it is very difficult to deduce how they want to play and in most cases the tactical aspect of their approach is very poor. Most times it is evident the players have no cohesion which makes it extremely difficult for them to find any rhythm in their play. In modern day football this approach is simply not good enough and this has seen Jamaica fail to make an impact regionally and on the international stage.
Poor team selection
In the successful 1998 World Cup campaign, there was a group of players that was constantly selected. These players are referred to as the 'core' around which the team was built. Back then they were mainly Warren Barrett, Onandi Lowe, Andy Williams, Durant Brown, Linval Dixon, Peter Cargill, Ian "Pepe" Goodison, Theodore "Tappa" Whitmore, Gregory Messam and Stephen Malcolm, all home grown. It is difficult to ‘chop and change’ the core of the team and maintain stability but it is quite easy to add players around that core. Players can be brought in to complement the nucleus of your team and get positive results immediately. However, when that core is disrupted or past its prime, then the period after that is perhaps the rebuilding phase.
In recent times it has been heartbreaking but the administration has failed to identify at least 10 players to build the team around. There are constant changes in the selected personnel right throughout the squad and it reflects in the poor communication between players on the pitch. The constant changes will lead to self-destruction while progress and development is highly unlikely with this approach. The sad reality is that there is very little hope that this will end in the foreseeable, but we certainly hope the experience of coach Winfried Schafer will help shape a team capable of competing.
No appreciation of their little history
When a player or a team pulls on their national jersey, they must be aware of it's history and tradition. They must be aware that they are not only representing themselves on the day, but all that has happened in the past that has contributed to football in their nation. Jamaica is the smallest nation to have scored a goal and win a match at the FIFA World Cup, these two records previously held by Northern Ireland. Jamaica is also the first English-speaking Caribbean nation to compete in the FIFA World Cup which in itself was a significant achievement.
When representing the Jamaican National Team the players should hold their heads high and be extremely proud to be playing for this small but big-hearted nation with somewhat of a proud history. The players and coaching staff must show great respect and appreciation for what the crest represents and try to uphold its traditions. They also have the responsibility to try to make a significant mark in the history of Jamaican Football so that the future generations have a level to aspire to, uphold and try to surpass. Their lacklustre approach and performances shows the lack of respect for what the history represents and shows no regard for what the previous generation fought whole-heartedly to achieve.
Lack of leadership in the dressing room
There has been a lot of talk in the international media about captaincy and leadership in the dressing room. Naturally, the captain should be the ultimate leader in the dressing room but that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be other personalities who try to have an influence on the team. There are senior players and other personalities that other players should be able to call upon for guidance and advice.
Back in the 1998 campaign, striker Walter Boyd pointed out that if he scored 2 goals in a game his teammates such as Goodison, Dixon and Cargill would let him know that he still needed to do better and score more goals. He pointed out that there were big personalities particularly Cargill and Goodison who always pushed their teammates to give more as well as to keep a ‘positive energy’ in the team.
The current set up has no leadership whatsoever. There is little indication of anyone trying to get his teammates 'fired up' and push them to step up their game. Rudolph Austin on many occasions tries to lift the players but he doesn’t seem like the type of personality who will 'have a go' at his teammates if they are playing below an acceptable level. This lack of leadership is certainly a serious concern for the national team, especially with coach Schafer trying to incorporate young players into the set-up.
There will be more on this subject.