Craig Butler | Give football a kick in the ass
The Under-23 team’s failure to qualify for the Olympics indicates a clear breakdown in the country’s football structure and calls for a revolution in methodology.
My opinions have been met with chagrin by those in charge of Jamaica’s football who continuously bleat that there is not enough funding for the programme, claiming that as the root of failure. I put it to you that it is the reverse.
As one of Jamaica’s top salesmen Oliver Jones once said in an address to the Reggae Boyz, the three most important ingredients for success are preparation, preparation, preparation. The problem is not the pool of talent, but the lack of development to enable them to peak professionally.
Since high school, Alex Marshall has been a mainstay and starter at Cavalier Football Club. Lamar Walker plays for Portmore, and Tyreek Magee plies his trade at Harbour View. They have been on too many trials in Europe to count, albeit with no success. So what’s the real problem, and what’s the solution?
There is no succession planning to improve player performance. In their formative years, footballers who are predominantly left- or right-footed are not encouraged to use the weaker foot or to play both sides of the field. There is no time to develop them; the focus is on winning. A player taking the ball off his weaker foot and shooting and scoring with his stronger is cheered by coach, teammates, parents and spectators, reinforcing a negative action with a positive reaction.
As time progresses, the same thing happens in high school. You have half-built players playing against weaker half-built players, and we beat our chests about which high school wins the most Manning or daCosta Cups, or Colts competitions.
The player then goes, hopefully, to one or two markets: the United States college system or, more recently, the USL, to continue to have limited success. If not, he participates in the brutal local Premier League, which is a stomping ground, literally, for those without favourable options.
The second problem we have is that of coach education. Most times in the past, we have used foreign coaches who do not understand our language and culture and try to impose their own brand of football, which may be better suited to their own countrymen. That has failed.
The pickings are slim, locally. We have chosen former players and thrust them into the job without getting them properly educated. No one sends his child, if he can afford it, to the lowest-performing school. When a parent thinks of his own child going to university, his eyes are set on the Ivy League in America or Oxford in England. So why have we not sent our coaches to be educated in Europe and get the proper licences to build technical and tactical capacity? How many people know that the accreditation of courses by the Jamaica Football Federation, at the highest level offered, does not qualify anyone for even a job as a prep-school coach in Europe, the Mecca of football business and learning?
Send Theodore Whitmore, Donovan Duckie, Jerome Waite, and Andrew Peart, among other coaches, to Europe to get highly accredited badges. In so doing, they will be qualified to work as professional coaches in Europe. We laid the success of our players who are playing in European clubs, but we have no coaches making the leap, and yet we expect them to be as tactically efficient as more qualified foreign coaches. That’s impossible. Courses are offered in segments, so coaches can be sent while maintaining their duties with the Jamaica Football Federation.
Nutritional standards are also important. Players called to camps for the national programme sometimes stay at a house in Norbrook. A squad of 30 players sleep on bunk beds with eight to a room and one shower. Each day, the predominant meal is chicken with lots of rice. Training doesn’t usually start on time, and players don’t sit and eat together in a professional manner.
We don’t play attacking football. We have no effective midfielders with two-sided confidence and willingness to thread the needle, sending passes to release your wingers and strikers.
All schools, clubs, and academies in Jamaica’s football must adhere to, and use, a written developmental module established with the purpose of encouraging creativity and joy in the sport. We must push our youngsters to shoot more, dribble more, attack more, effectively using the flanks. They must learn to pass, shoot, and cross with both feet. The result will be more wingers and strikers like Leon Bailey and more midfielders like Kyle Butler.
If we can seriously put our heads together and establish a coherent system for Jamaica, minus the egos, we will be successful on the world stage and have more professionals in Europe employed as coaches and players. Egos play a huge part in the retardation of local football.
Let’s believe in our dreams and take the necessary steps to get there.
- Craig Butler is president of Phoenix All Stars Football Academy. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.