JA­MAICA RIFE RIFE RIFE WITH WITH WITH FOOT­BALL FOOT­BALL FOOT­BALL TAL­ENT TAL­ENT TAL­ENT

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

THE MIS­GUIDED phi­los­o­phy of the ag­gres­sive and widescale im­por­ta­tion of for­eign-born play­ers to rep­re­sent the se­nior Reg­gae Boyz must have, over time, re­sulted in a gen­eral ero­sion of faith, con­fi­dence and be­lief in the qual­ity of the lo­cal-based player pool.

This pro­longed prac­tice must not have only af­fected the play­ers them­selves, who would have grad­u­ally grown into be­liev­ing they re­ally had in­fe­rior and in­ad­e­quate tal­ent, but there emerged a sense that the lo­cal fra­ter­nity in gen­eral; be­gan to feed into the nar­ra­tive that Ja­maica has stopped pro­duc­ing tal­ented foot­ball play­ers.

With con­fi­dence a lit­tle bit shaken my­self, I started pay­ing even closer at­ten­tion to the lo­cal com­pe­ti­tions, es­pe­cially the Man­ning and daCosta Cups. I put my­self on de­lib­er­ate look­out for this so-called dra­matic fall in qual­ity of our young play­ers.

It hardly took more than a cou­ple of games and, in some cases, mere por­tions of games to re­alise the folly, false­ness and inac­cu­racy of this con­clu­sion.

The naysay­ers and preach­ers of doom and gloom for lo­cal tal­ent ei­ther have an agenda, bad eye­sight, or in­ept and in­com­pe­tent judge­ment as to what con­sti­tutes raw tal­ent.

Ja­maica is still rife with nat­u­ral foot­ball tal­ent. Var­i­ous lev­els of tal­ent from the or­di­nary to the ex­tra­or­di­nary con­tinue to be on show across the school grounds of Ja­maica. The fact of the mat­ter is, most of the 2,000-3,000 school­boy foot­ballers reg­is­tered per sea­son will not be­come su­per­stars of the sport; the ma­jor­ity of these young­sters will not even play com­pet­i­tive foot­ball af­ter high school.

FLAMES OF HOPE

From that same core, how­ever, there re­mains enough gen­uine tal­ent and qual­ity to keep the flames of hope burn­ing. I have seen teams with play­ers spread across both the Man­ning Cup and daCosta Cup this sea­son with enough of the ba­sic fun­da­men­tals and more – strength, power, speed, bal­ance, pace, deft touches and vi­sion enough raw ma­te­rial to be pos­i­tively ex­ploited.

The mis­take that many lo­cal foot­ball thinkers seem to be making is to use the com­par­a­tive qual­ity of the over­all foot­ball be­ing played in the Man­ning and daCosta Cup com­pe­ti­tions to assess and iden­tify in­di­vid­ual tal­ent.

In­di­vid­ual qual­i­ties and skill sets can shine through the rub­ble of very medi­ocre play. Very spe­cial tal­ent can emerge from a very poor team.

Most foot­ball fans watch games for the en­ter­tain­ment value it brings, tal­ent scout­ing is a dif­fer­ent proposition. Gen­eral or even spe­cific qual­i­ties in a player can be spot­ted even in a poor team per­for­mance or a poor in­di­vid­ual per­for­mance. A prospec­tive young for­ward could dis­play light­ning speed down the flanks all game, but pro­ceeds to miss three or four easy chances. The fact that he missed those chances, how­ever, does not take away from his speed, which could be ex­actly what the team most needs at that point in time.

It is a mis­take to keep look­ing for the com­plete item when scout­ing young play­ers. What will of­ten ap­pear are di­a­monds in the rough, it’s all up to the sys­tems and struc­tures to un­earth

and bring out the beauty and the value in those di­a­monds.

A change of mind­set is in the air, thanks to another failed World Cup cam­paign. Let us use this win­dow of op­por­tu­nity to try and change not just how our young play­ers think about them­selves as play­ers, but in this new cy­cle of progress, more Ja­maicans need to un­der­stand that the well is not dry and the tree is not with­ered.

Ja­maica is still pro­duc­ing out­stand­ing, young foot­ball tal­ent. Let us stop blam­ing these young play­ers, for our blind­ness in not be­ing able to see this tal­ent.

PHO­TOS BY RICARDO MAKYN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

Lit­tle Lon­don High School’s Kadeem Thorpe (cen­tre) heads the ball away from Wolmer’s Boys’ Al­phanso Gooden dur­ing the FLOW Su­per Cup match at Sabina Park last Fri­day.

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