Tag: sports

Time to do right by the Boyz​

Time to do right by the Boyz​

Jamaican football has been in a slump for quite some time now, with the level of play in the local senior league sometimes at a standard that is more akin to the English League Two (the fourth division) the Jamaican football fan has been starved for quality on a local basis. For almost twenty years that slump also extended to the men’s senior football team, our beloved Reggae Boyz. Since their historic qualification for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, the side has drifted from disappointment (as when we failed at the last hurdle to qualify for the World Cup in 2002) to downright embarrassment and dejection (as was the case with the 6-0 that England gave us in preparation for another World Cup that we failed to qualify for), all that however seems to have changed.

The Boyz in the last two major CONCACAF tournaments (note: not CFU or CONMEBOL) have done exceedingly well, going above and beyond the expectations that most if not all of us had. In the past two Gold Cups, the Boyz have managed to reach the finals on both occasions while playing what can only be described as good looking (not Barcelona sexy) football and regaining the defensive prowess that led us to that historic ’98 qualification. What makes these performances all the more remarkable is that they did it with (1) a whole bunch of local players (though in truth it was a mixed contingent that did the deeds in 2015) and (2) they did it at a time when football in Jamaica is desperately short of cash.

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At a time when businesses (not so much the people) are making profits hand over fist (see Bank of Nova Scotia Jamaica Ltd) and listing on the JSE and junior stock market (see Proven Investment Ltd) to rake in billions, the JFF should really look into getting some much needed finances from these institutions. The Reggae Boyz have kept up their end of the bargain so far what with the two finals and as such the private sector should hold up its end of the bargain and start to pump money into (after seeing an actual feasible long term plan with set deadlines) our local football program so that we can ensure that these performances are not just ‘buckups’ as we Jamaicans would say.

The problem certainly isn’t a lack of cash in the nation, as track and field shows, there is money in this nation and I am probably being a little harsh on the private sector who have in the past funded the JFF (like Stewarts Motors which has been by the Boyz side through thick and thin) sometimes to the detriment of other sporting disciplines. The private sector is scared (and scarred) to invest in football because of the countless false dawns that the national team have had and the complacency (often times bordering on ineptitude) the JFF have had over the past twenty years. However as mentioned previously the Boyz have done exceedingly well on a relative shoestring budget and seem to have the makings of a long term plan and as such at least deserve to be listened to (if not actively prodded into) as it relates to football and how it will improve further.

The Reggae Boyz have done well, they deserve the plaudits that they have been receiving as well as the hype and inevitable big money transfer rumours. More needs to be done however if we are to not only retain this good run of form but (and this is the most important thing) to kick off from there and make serious gains not only in the region but the world. This can only be done if the game has a serious cash infusion from the private sector and that will only happen if the JFF presents an actual well thought out plan for the game and its future in Jamaica, if not then this will be a repeat of ’98 and we will have to wait another two decades for some form of footballing enjoyment on the international (let alone regional) stage.

Stop playing games with sports

Jamaicans have  mad passion for sports, be it the man who plays community football every Sunday, or the woman who goes all out in our local netball leagues, we indulge in sports. Even if they have never played on an actual team or ever kicked a ball they watch with baited breath Manning Cup matches and Jamaica Trials. Put in a nutshell Jamaica is a sports happy nation that is also home to some of the worlds best athletes and coaches.

Yet here we are, some thirteen years since the start of our prolonged athletic dominance (see VCB at the ’04 Athens Games) and some twenty years since our qualification for the World Cup and we are still yet to realize that sports is so much more than a game.

Sports is both an industry and entertainment, it is a multi-billion dollar entity which we as a nation are failing to tap into. Staying with the obvious (track and field) Jamaica has been at the top of the pack for over a decade, yet we do not tap into that for monetary purposes. We do not for example have a world class training camp where foreign athletes can come down for some r&r or intensive training, nor do we have in place a training program for foreign coaches so that they can tap into our methods (and we can tap into their wallets). If we are to not only retain our position as kings of the track but also leave a lasting mark on the sport then we need to seriously monetize track and mimic what they have in Eugene, Oregon (a hub of track and field where international athletes and coaches are hosted).

Football isn’t spared from this insanity, in fact it is the poster child for Jamaica’s failure to adjust to the realities and potentials of the modern sports industry. Now football has been drunk on  money since the 90’s, more so in the past five years, and Jamaica is a nation where football is king, yet we for some reason refuse to tap into that rich vein. We refuse to professionalize our league (we have only recently become semi-pro) and we (as individual clubs) refuse to become feeder clubs to European clubs in Belgium and the Netherlands (where work permits are easier to come by), thereby seriously limiting the potential finances that the clubs could make. More to the point in this day and age where clubs like Manchester United and Real Madrid travel the world on summer tours and pre-season tournaments, Jamaica with its tourist pedigree and its passion for sports cant seem to organize even a one off tournament with these teams that are both available and actively looking to expand there market base (plus it would both boost our tourism product while improving our standard of local football).

We see the same in netball where we continue to rest on our laurels while failing to realize that we are sitting on a potential goldmine. With a national team that averages a global ranking of between third to fifth in the world (while still having no professional league) we refuse to take advantage of the fact that we possess some of the best athletes and coaches. We could (just like track and field) share our knowledge and nous of the game. We should be creating a league that seeks to attract the best players in the region and then televise it through Sportsmax for example (which is highly under-supplied). In one felt swoop we would have cemented the regional viewership, expanded your product (the Jamaican netball league) to foreign shores  while ensuring that we remain as one of the hubs of the game globally.

Sports could and should be placed on the front burner by both parties and especially any person who wishes to be a tourist minister. With so much money just sloshing around, literally begging to be pocketed, we refuse to monetize sports. We have a perfectly good Multi-purpose stadium on the north coast that we have allowed to become a white elephant rather than expanding into the sports tourism market. We don’t use it to host cricket (we could host the subcontinental teams and tap into their massive diaspora in the states) and we don’t use it to host football matches (where we could integrate our football product with our tourism product). Instead of doing these obvious movements towards getting involved in the international sports market we continue to dither and laud the fact that we have gotten some third rate IAAF sanctioned meet while the Bahamas hosts the premiere world relay meet.

We need to wise up and realize that sports is about more than running up and down, more than having fun and winning, it is an industry, one that we are apart of but not taking advantage of and that is insane.A change must be made in how we view sports and how we integrate it into our economy. Too much chatting has been done and not enough action when it comes to monetizing sports and that has to change, the private sector along with the state must realize that there is a massive amount of money that we are not sharing in, an industry tailor-made for us. Let us push our politicians to promote and push sports, let us see the private sector realize that the sporting industry can be and is profitable and let us finally harness the sporting potential that this nation has, to not do so would be criminal.

A history of politics and sports

Politics and sports are like chalk and cheese and must never mix, sports which is pure and true must never be tainted by association with politics. That is the line held by all major sporting governing bodies such as Fifa and the IOC, but try as they might politics has and will always find its way into the sphere of sports, just as a rat finds its way to a meal.

Political action and agitation through sports is not a new concept as I am sure we all know. We have all grown up with tales of Jessie Owens at Berlin 36 putting a damper on what was then the largest attempt at the melding of the political and sporting, just as we all live with stories of Mexico City 68 and the strength and solidarity shown in the clenched fist on the winners podium. But those events as political as they were, and as condemned as they were were far from isolated then and is going on still.

We see this in the first two Italian victories at the World Cup where in order to show off the impressiveness and superiority of fascism the referees and oposition were routinely threatened or bribed as the Italians copped the jueles remmet consecutively. We then have the last massive post war extravaganza which is Berlin 36 where even Mr Owens own getting on the Olympics team was a fight against the American political machinery (Jessie won by the way), a black man representing a country where it’s very leagues were segregated, where the best teams (financially speaking anyway) were exclusively white and where blacks were just treated like inferiors, his rise to the top to shatter Hitler’s dreams was born of race politics but is seldom mentioned.

Mexico City 68 is also shrouded in more politics than we care to admit. Everyone knows the story of how they got on the podium and even how they got the gloves that represent so much, but few recall the dictatorship then in power in Mexico mowing down people with bullets as they protested prior to and on the opening day. Few recall the cavern separating the haves from the have nots in Mexico, how the poor tended to be majority brown, how the middle class became agitated and how the dictatorship could not afford to have its image tarnished.

Argentina 78 we see more politics merging with sports. The junta was pretty embedded and the dirty war was in full swing and the world cup was in town. From the mini riots in the streets when a young diego maradona was left out to the questionable win over the much fancied Peruvians we witness a sporting event laced with politics.

Moscow 80 was the same thing, the socialist world showing off a ‘workers paradise’ and the political west led by the US boycotted the event (the Afghan intervention being the premise for the boycott) and the Olympics in Barcelona in 92 were all about white washing a fascists past. We see this still in Sochi which was to be used to herald a new vibrant russia.

However politics in sports runs through many channels and avenues. Take for example rugby, if one plays league one is usually a northern englishman who votes labour, while if you play union you are usually a southerner who votes tory with a high chance that you are an OXBRIDGE graduate.

We see lord Coe who is an ex tory mp running the IAAF, locally we have mp’s and councilors who lead football clubs and who use it by extension to cement there parochial base.

Sports in politics will always be an issue, but politics will always find its way into sports, and not because politics it better or that politicians are clever. No, it will always be there because it like sports encompasses humanities hopes dreams and aspirations, not to mention the fact that a captive audience is more receptive to ideas and propaganda.