More than 20 years since the Reggae Boyz last qualified for the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and here we are, still discussing the obvious faults in our local game. Many believed that with the nation achieving such a remarkable accomplishment, the governing body for football in Jamaica – the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) – would have created a plan on which to build on that feat which would have subsequently continued to improve the country’s football. However, it seems as if we are actually going backwards with the nation’s football development.
One of the Reggae Boyz’s current stars, Kemar “Taxi” Lawrence, has stated that the country does have the capabilities to get to the next World Cup and he firmly believes that despite the struggles the squad has encountered with its administration, the team will qualify and secure Jamaica’s second World Cup appearance in its history.
However, during his Instagram Live interview with 876Stream, Lawrence did state that many issues need to be addressed within the sport locally for the game to be advanced and have the country enjoying multiple and consistent qualifications to football’s show-piece tournament.
Among other things, the left-back detailed how difficult it is for a player to focus on playing in the Red Stripe Premier League. He cited the fact that several players are also working two to three other jobs apart from his responsibilities as a player.
“No one wants to work two, three jobs” Taxi highlighted, and went on to point out that this is one of the reasons why many fans do not get the quality football they desire because the players are fatigued and overworked.
Part of the issue with the RSPL is that not enough money is available to pay players a decent wage. There are even reports of players being offered thirty thousand dollars per month to play for a club, an income that many Jamaicans are aware is not sufficient enough to maintain an individual much less that individual and their family. It makes you wonder what exactly is on the contract that these players sign… how exactly is the club going to expect that player to do what it takes to keep himself fit outside of training days when he’s barely being paid as a part-time worker?
Lawrence spoke primarily to this issue and suggested that perhaps a franchising concept be implemented to save the league from its financial woes. The challenge with that idea is, 1. Will corporate companies be willing to invest in clubs considering that local football is already a hard sell, leading to the possibility of a very low ROI? 2. The inner-city communities are very likely to lose their beloved clubs as they know it, as a result of the franchise model ensuring an even distribution of football clubs across the country.
Another one of the infrastructural issues that Lawrence brought to the forefront during the live interview was the quality of the fields in the league, an issue which he states is extremely important.
“I have been saying that it’s better we get three fields and play [all] the matches across these fields, three quality pitches so people can see and enjoy the football.”
“You’re going to blame a man for a touch but you don’t see that it bounces right before it reaches the man’s foot. The field plays a lot in why you watch the Premier League and why you watch all the European leagues.”
It is true, the quality of football that we witness in the major European leagues or even Major League Soccer in the US are greatly impacted by the quality of the field.
For Jamaica, that is definitely an issue that needs to be rectified while money needs to be invested in creating world class fields that will improve the holistic value of the nation’s football.
It is during times like these when the world is at a standstill, collectively focusing on dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, that the JFF can think of ways in which they can improve the development of football in the country.