The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has recently failed to attract several foreign-based players to come and play for the men’s national senior team. The venture to go out and seek English-based players was restarted by the current administration when the squad failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Over the years Jamaica has been known to recruit players who were born in England because, for one reason or another, they were not selected to play for the Three Lions thus making them keen on taking the opportunity to represent the Reggae Boyz.
This refreshed approach comes as the team gears up for the qualification process for the 2022 FIFA World Cup that will be held in Qatar, a tournament that could perhaps define the Michael Ricketts-led administration.
Recently, it was announced via media reports that Reggae Boyz team manager, Roy Simpson, was seeking to bring Manchester United star Mason Greenwood and Leeds United midfielder Kalvin Phillips into the national set up. It was also subsequently confirmed that an invitation had been extended to the latter, in hopes that he could add some much needed steel and technical ability to Theodore Whitmore’s midfield. However, Phillips went on to make his debut under England coach Gareth Southgate against Denmark in the UEFA Nations League.
Despite the fact that the entire situation is laughable, due to the high profile of these two players, it was somewhat of an indication of the JFF’s ambition to try and add some much needed quality to the team.
However, what must be addressed is not being addressed by JFF President Ricketts and the federation. If one were to invite a player of Mason Greenwood’s stature to the Reggae Boyz team, an 18-year-old phenom who has the world at his feet and currently plies his trade at one of the biggest clubs in football, you would expect that he would be met with a system and a philosophy that would ensure his smooth transition into the team and ultimately aid in building the squad’s chemistry.
It seems as if the Federation is simply keen on plugging these major holes with the talents of quality players, expecting them to carry the country on their backs while we seek to qualify for what would be our second ever World Cup Tournament.
However, just like a building without strong foundation, the implementation of this recruitment strategy will falter in the long run and will ultimately see us continue a repetitive backward mindset that has gotten us nowhere for the last twenty-two years.
What we need to do is to first establish a philosophy, one that every player that represents the national team is used to or can adopt to. Secondly, there needs to be an improvement of the infrastructure that we have at our disposal. The country’s national football field, ‘The Office’ can be described as a disgrace in terms of its quality and many players, including veteran defender Kemar “Taxi” Lawrence, have stated this publicly, that the condition of the field often impacts the way how the team plays.
When we improve on areas like this, the players that we seek to attract will realize our ambition and will be more enticed to represent the country and participate in helping to build our football reputation. They will be in a much better position to perform when they are called upon and not look like a fish out of water. Prime examples of this were Gareth McCleary and Jobi McAnuff who were exceptional in the Football Leagues in England but could not find their footing whenever they put on the black, green and gold.
If the JFF are serious about recruiting these talents, then in order for them to avoid being rejected by these players, they must focus their attention on addressing these other issues first and build from the ground up.