By Gregory Bryce
Reggae Boyz team manager, Roy Simpson, has announced recently, plans that he has in place to better improve the level of football on the island, and to improve the chances of local players making it into the national programme. Reported by the Gleaner on Sunday, Simpson’s plans seem to be very ambitious, but have also received criticism from various voices in the sports circle.
Simpson, in the past, has acknowledged the talent that has been readily available locally. When speaking about the recent upturn in form from Jamaican players, Simpson spoke positively about their performances. However, he was also critical when he pointed out that for the team to improve, it is important that they aim to move to the more reputable European leagues to help raise the standard of Jamaican football.
Well, Simpson seems to be speaking along that same train of thought when he revealed his plans for the future. In essence, the plan will allow for the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) to take a batch of ‘elite’ players from their clubs and place these players into year-round camps hosted by the JFF.
Through these camps, Simpson says, the players will be exposed to a higher quality of training, as well as, international competition through matches overseas. Simpson believes that this will allow for the local-based players to become more lucrative investments for teams overseas as well as viable options for national team selection.
“Players will go to camp in Europe, South America, Mexico and play teams there. We will have this group of players permanently in camp, permanently playing and training together and preparing for the next international games or competition, to the point where our international players will have to come good because this team is unbeatable,” Simpson was quoted as saying by the Gleaner.
Simpson draws confidence of this plan’s success from the result of former Reggae Boyz coach, Rene Simoes’, ‘adopt-a-player’ program. Simoes, who coached Jamaica to their only ever World Cup appearance, had installed a programme where corporate entities could ‘adopt’ a player and use this player as a brand ambassador. Through this, players could often travel to Brazil for training and matches which improved their level of play.
But while Simoes’ previous plans might have led to the team making it to the World Cup in France, there are naysayers today who feel this approach is outdated and ineffective.
General manager of Harbour View FC, Clyde Jureidini, is one such person against this plan.
“You cannot take people out of their clubs. That was something that was allowed for Simoes, Captain (Horace) Burrell and the group (players) to get away with, because it was a new dawn 25 years ago, but that story is old and told,” he said to the Gleaner.
To be fair, I think that Simpson tried to fix many important issues that have hindered local football development over the years when formulating this plan, but there are many things that are fundamentally flawed in my opinion.
Without a doubt, while there should be a higher level of cooperation between the clubs and the national programme, the plan does not encourage development at the grassroots level, which should be the first step that should be taken into consideration.
I believe that Simpson has overlooked the fundamental levels of our football, and is instead looking for a near-complete project to mold to fit his system. In essence, it seems as though he is trying to build a house by starting at the roof.
But at the same time, while it is easy to look and judge from the outside, it is understandable to see why Simpson would be pushing for this to be implemented. The next calendar year will be a very important one for the JFF. With the Gold Cup tournament and the World Cup qualifiers slated to take place, Jamaica will need a vastly improved squad of players to choose from. Simpson is thinking of fast results overtime, and this programme could offer that.
“We believe that if our confederation is hosting World Cup 2026, with Jamaica being a dominant force in the confed, we must be at that World Cup and whatever we are doing now must feed into that plan,” Simpson said.
Simpson’s plans seem to be more geared towards short-term results for the team, but fail to take into account the foundation of Jamaican footballers who are expected to become the core of the national programme. While an ambitious project, it seems fundamentally flawed at this stage of planning.
Gregory Bryce is a freelance sports journalist.
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