Two-tier system is not the answer
THE 2016 schoolboy football season is in full swing with all the spills and thrills that a typical schoolboy football season brings.
This season, however, comes into special focus, as it unfolds in the immediate aftermath of yet another failed World Cup-qualifying cycle.
As the discussions, debates and analysis continue with added fervour. The age-old proposal of a two-tier system for the Manning and daCosta Cup competitions is back on the front burner. Veteran schoolboy coach Patrick ‘Jackie’ Walters has been for a long time championing of the call for the best teams in the Manning and daCosta Cup to be separated into divisions with an A division comprising the bigger and better teams with the weaker teams to play in a B division with a relegation and promotion process enforced.
The idea is that instead of playing so many meaningless games against smaller so-called inferior teams and winning 8-0, 9-0, and 10-0 the top teams should play more often among themselves, thus guaranteeing more competitive games, better football, and more meaningful development of the players.
This, to my mind, is trending down the dangerous road of elitism in what are still amateur school competitions. This radical change would effectively be telling smaller, poorer, less-equipped schools like Tarrant High, Edith Dalton James, Papine etc., that they are not good enough’ to rub shoulders with the likes of St George’s College, Kingston College and Jamaica College.
The same subliminal message would be sent to the smaller rural schools, such as Green Pond, May Day High or Black River High, that they don’t belong on the same field and are inferior – not just as footballers, but as a school community and as individuals. That they are lesser beings that their counterparts who attend Cornwall College, Munro College or Clarendon College.
NO NEED FOR SPLIT
As the competitions are more even after the first round, the main objectives sought after by this proposal are for the most part achieved as the proverbial sheep are separated from the goats, as the elite teams do emerge and compete against each other for championship honours.
The advent of the high-profile ISSA-Flow Super Cup pushes the concept even further providing an even bigger stage for the top teams to strut their stuff against each other, which further diminishes the need to split the competitions into divisions.
The Manning and daCosta Cup competitions as they are, are highly successful and hugely popular products that provide a pivotal platform for the exposure of the nation’s best young football talent.
It is the skill of meaningfully identifying that talent and what we do with that talent that have been our most significant let down.
The Schoolboy football competitions are far from perfect, within an even more imperfect football structure in Jamaica, but we have to keep our feet grounded in reality. The magnitude of improvement and impact being craved by some of these suggested changes to the schoolboy football product are unrealistic.
There are more achievable fundamentals such as improving the surfaces and beginning the transformation in the way talented young Jamaican players view themselves in the wider scheme of things. The practice of drilling it into the subconscious of our top 17, 18, 19 year olds that they are “so young” and have so much time to develop, is a crippling and devastating mistake.
The career path of a professional footballer is generally clearly defined from as early as fourteen or fifteen years old.
When we keep telling our best young players how young they are, we are covertly setting back the psychological development and advancement an average of five usually detrimental years.
These are but some of the immediate problems we need to address in our football before we further muddy the waters with another act of classism.