RIGHT ATTITUDE NEW DRIVE It is good to see the new drive to develop our own players, and it is especially good to see to the new JFF-Sportsmax Elite League for junior footballers. It was also good to read what Dr Paul Wright had to say a week or so ago when he started his column about the treatment of Connie Francis and Jamaica’s love for foreign coaches with these words: “I have long held the view that international sport should be the best of ours against the best of yours. Modern eligibility rules have made a mockery of my hope as national teams in a fervent desire to win-at-all-cost, select athletes to national sides who have very little knowledge of, or loyalty to, their new country.” And at the end, after writing that foreign coaches have been no better than good local coaches, suggested that the local coaches continue “improving your craft and upgrading your resume, but more importantly, develop a foreign accent when applying for local jobs”. SEEN THE LIGHT Burrell noted, however, that the development of the local players will take time, but that with the right attitude and support of corporate Jamaica, they can make the country proud. “It is going to depend on the attitude of these players and those who really want to do it for the country, which I think is a better way now that we are seeing new things happening for the national team.” Those are like the words of a born-again Christian, and one who may be enjoying the salvation for the first time. One hopes that Burrell’s about turn is not only because the overseas players were not all that good, not only because they failed miserably, not only because they were difficult to deal with and to coach, not only because they threatened to go on strike for their money, not only because the JFF is short of funds, not only because the 2018 World Cup dream is over for Jamaica, and not only because, under Theodore Whitmore, the local boys got an opportunity and did not do too badly, but because he has really seen the light. One hopes also that it did not take Burrell’s hearing about the difference in attitude of the overseas players from members of CONCACAF to finally make up his mind. One hopes that he came to see the mistakes himself, and that just as he has now seen the hunger, the satisfaction of representing their country, and the joy of doing so by the local-based Jamaicans, he saw the lack of commitment in many, if not all, of the overseas players and also the absence of pride in representing Jamaica. It is obvious, and it should have been obvious, that to build a house, one must start from the ground and go up and not to do the impossible, which is to start from the roof and go down. The JFF, or captain Burrell, in their haste to reach the World Cup finals, to participate in the glamour of the World Cup finals, once again pushed them in the wrong direction, either that, or they simply ignored the principles of development for the satisfaction of going to the World Cup finals. This model was quite different from that of 1998 when the majority of the squad were local-based Jamaicans, when most members of the starting eleven were local-based Jamaicans, and when they all, including the overseas players, went out and gave their all for Jamaica. On top of it all, they all wanted to represent Jamaica, and they all played like they wanted to represent Jamaica. In this model, one had to use a magnifying glass to find a local-based Jamaican in the squad much more in the starting eleven. This new reliance, if indeed it is sincere and not based on circumstances, including the lack of finances, on local-based Jamaicans to represent the national team, with a few good and devoted overseas Jamaicans to boost the team, if and when necessary, is good for Jamaican football and for Jamaica today and in the future. Nothing happens before its time, and on top of that, and as the saying goes, it makes no sense crying over spilt milk. What is better, in fact, is that as disappointed as we were when it was taking place, and when Jamaica’s football was being sold down the river, is to breathe a sigh of relief that the hard-working president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), Captain Horace Burrell, has made a 180-degree turn in the direction he wishes to take Jamaica’s football going forward. In his new-found philosophy, Burrell has almost confessed that he, and his federation members, made a mistake in his blinkered approach to the country’s football programme during his years of flying off to Europe and elsewhere in an effort to find players to put on the “shirt” and to represent Jamaica. As so many of us have been saying, a few for some years now, recruiting overseas players when Jamaica should be using local talent, young and not so young, was heading for disaster, and according to Robert Bailey in a Gleaner article recently, Burrell admitted to his earlier mistake. “What we are seeing now from the young players is a major difference right now in terms of attitude, in terms of really getting out there and doing it, and I think this is one area that we must concentrate on, and so the days of players coming from overseas and walking into the national team, those days are behind us.” That was well said, except for one thing: the players did not “come in from overseas and walk into the national team”. They were scouted and invited into the national team. Burrell also said that “when you look at the players on the field of play, you realise that there is something different, and speaking with my colleagues in CONCACAF, they, too, have noticed that there is a difference, and so we intend to continue along this line, and I am sure that everything will fall into place in the right order”. The captain also said that “we have to be man enough to say it has not worked and, therefore, after meeting with the stakeholders, the JFF decided to embark on a new initiative by including the youngsters and the local-based players who are hungry and who really want to make an impression, and we’re getting the results”.