first_imgWhen the World Cup kicks off in less than two weeks, a painful truth will land home once again. Jamaica won’t be there, and the implication is that we can’t play football well enough to be there. It will hit like a ton of bricks. Twenty years ago, through a combination of inspired coaching, committed play, unprecedented funding, a timely infusion of professionalism from Paul Hall, Fitzroy Simpson and Deon Burton and a slight opening in the qualifying requirements, the Reggae Boyz were standing side by side with the globe’s elite teams in France. It was brilliant. To top everything off, the Boyz didn’t just make up numbers – they scored goals and won a game, 2-1 over Japan. That was 20 years and five World Cups ago. It’s beginning to look like a stroke of luck. In this context, the recent football town hall meeting is a step forward. Curse the media all you want, but there are times when it is the only entity that can pull stakeholders together. That seems to be something football dearly needs. If Jamaica is to ever qualify for the World Cup again, all the stakeholders need to play to the tune of a coordinated plan. The next step will be for those who attended the town hall meeting to peel off into working groups whose duty is to come back with reports and proposals to advance the state of the game in Jamaica. The elements of success aren’t a mystery. Better playing fields are a basic requirement, allied to better coaching at lower age groups to facilitate the development of sound technique. The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) think tank absolutely must recommend a playing style that suits the Jamaican footballer, and that must guide national coaches at every level. My own uneducated recommendations on this matter of playing style are a matter of record. It’s time to fall out of love with tiki-taka in its pure Barcelona form and time to play speed-based counter-attacking football on a base of solid defence. After all, speed is what we have. This speed-based approach helped Jamaica qualify for men’s and women’s hockey at this year’s Central American and Caribbean Games. It’s worth a try in football. The experts in this new dialogue can take that ball and run with it. Hopefully, with everyone in the Reggae Boyz bus together now, Jamaica can put its foot on the accelerator and build a slate of teams that can hold their own in world football. Delay is disaster. When the World Cup begins, that elemental truth – that we aren’t world class in football – will again hit home. Thankfully, there’s a silver lining. Together we can make our football improve. – Hubert Lawrence correctly picked Germany to win the World Cup in The Sunday Gleaner of July 13, 2014.last_img