By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published June 13, 2016
Aired June 18, 2016, via Zaheer’s Zone on Sports Nation Live
Two losses in the Copa America tournament, which followed the win against #3 ranked Chile, disappointed many Jamaican football fans. With another World Cup qualifying campaign all but lost, several fans feel like they were scammed.
On Thursday night, a riveting documentary aired on local television, which highlighted the infamous scamming trade in Jamaica and the impact it has had on its victims and the perpetrators. The reality of scamming and its repelling repercussions were finally exposed for all Jamaicans to see and it resonated with viewers at large. The Twitter hashtag #Scammed dominated the night with hundreds of individuals commenting on the quality and reality of the production.
On that same night and almost simultaneously, the Reggae Boys were ousted from the Copa America Centenario tournament after losing their second consecutive game of the tournament, this time, to CONCACAF rivals Mexico. In the first game, the team’s loss was mainly due to Rodolph Austin being ordered to the showers for tackling a Venezuelan player early in the first half. There was an accord that the referee made a blunder in that game by sending off Austin. There were others who believed the referee made even more blunders throughout that game after that game-transforming moment. However, one thing is sure, the people of Jamaica felt scammed on Thursday night by coach Winfried Schäefer and the players, based on their performance.
The team has one match remaining in the tournament against Uruguay with both teams having nothing to play for but pride. Jamaica was supposedly using this tournament and the earlier friendly against Chile to prepare the team for the World Cup qualifiers in an attempt to progress to the final round of qualifiers and eventually the World Cup.
To be honest, Schäefer’s reign as head coach of the Jamaica football has had intermittent successes. Winning the Caribbean Cup, finishing runner-up in the Gold Cup and the victory against number three ranked Chile comes readily to mind and warms the heart. Nevertheless, lacklustre performances such as this in the Copa America and in the World Cup qualifiers begs to question, how successful is Schäefer’s term as Jamaica’s coach and what will be his legacy?
Under his tutelage, Jamaica has shown improved defensive prowess, however, the tenacity up front before goal has been wanting to be modest. Schäefer and Captain Burrell, president of the Jamaica Football Federation, by their mere actions and utterances have little to no faith in local footballers and have opted time and again for the overseas players in the squad and the starting the XI.
It is hard pressed to identify the local footballer(s) who have gotten adequate international caps and have been developed during Schäefer’s tenure. Montego Bay United’s Allan Ottey seems a perennial feature in Jamaica’s squad under Schäefer but his chances up front in the black, green and gold have been fairly nonexistent. The overseas players have failed time and time again to score goals and the local players are given little to no opportunity.
Schäefer is constantly touring the country and is often seen in the stands at matches observing the local talent on display. In his time here, spanning two World Cup qualifying campaigns, a clear philosophy for Jamaica’s senior football team has not been evident. Similarly, it appears there is no philosophical framework for the country’s football program from the tot through to the teenager and onwards to the national program. This is an indictment on Schäefer but more importantly, on the Captain Burrell-led administration.
It can be said that one ought not to speak ill of the ill. Captain Burrell has been ill for the past few weeks and has asked us to respect his privacy as he attempts to recover. Over the years, Captain Burrell has asked sponsors and the public to support the road to Korea/Japan, South Africa, Brazil, and Russia. The fans have responded and have built up their hopes of being rewarded with the joy many experienced during the 1998 campaign. However, it seems campaign after campaign their sacrifice and investment haven’t yielded any glorious gratification or windfall, which they have been seemingly promised over and over, or have come to expect.
With Jamaica officially out of the Copa America tournament, Schäefer, Burrell, and the JFF must set their visual modality firmly on qualifying for the final round of the World qualifiers and beyond. In order to qualify we will need to win our remaining matches, anything less and we’ll be resigned once again to watching another World Cup from our living rooms without our nation’s team in participation. Henceforth, they’ll need to find forwards who can score goals, whether they are based overseas, locally or on Mars.
Since the overseas forwards, for the most part, have failed us, even with clear chances at goal like in the Mexico match on Thursday, maybe it’s time to give an opportunity or two to some of the local forwards. They cannot do any worse.
Albert Einstein is often attributed with the quote which defines insanity as “doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” Schäefer and the Jamaica’s technical staff needs to think deeply about this. Similarly, the fans of Jamaica football need to do the same. The fans are being asked to invest in this program year after year, match after match, both financially and emotionally, and haven’t seen much return on our investment. They keep hearing they should keep the faith. However, many including myself feel no different than the victims of the lottery scamming. It’s a hard thing to admit. However, based on the expectations we were sold, with Schäefer’s arrival towards the end of the 2014 campaign and his subsequent extension to the 2018 campaign, in reality, it feels like we, the fans, are being scammed.
The final proof, whether or not this is so, will lie in the coming qualification matches ahead and if Jamaica progresses. Regardless, I can tell you that for die-hard Jamaica football fans – like all victims of scamming – they cling desperately to hope and convince themselves daily that they are not being duped, even when the waves of truth surrounds them.
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
This blog article was also published in the Western Mirror on June 13, 2016.