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School soccer standards need improving

Play during the Shiva Boys Hindu College v Fatima College SSFL clash in September. Source: wired868.com

by Alvin Corneal

So much major sports are available on television but one has to choose which of the sports to follow. The major sport in the world, football, always brings great excitement to local fans, especially when this country is involved in the qualification process.

With the radio, TV, and print media following the Secondary Schools Football League bandwagon, and the quality of our football in the senior leagues only moderately entertaining, I decided to follow the secondary schools tournament.

The on and off-field problems in the Pro League and Super League have caused a further drop in spectators. Then there are internal issues regarding payment for players in some of the clubs, and concerns over the behaviour demonstrated by some club coaches and owners. Overall, it’s hardly worth a visit to the grounds.

Of course, the secondary schools were not expected to even reach the standard of play like their senior counterparts. After viewing two matches weekly on television and seeing the quality of play by the youngsters, I was forced to compare them to players from the recent years where our national schoolboys were even challenging some of the senior players in the national teams.

Forgive me if I admit to having been disappointed by the general standard of play among the country’s top secondary schools of today. The media seemed under strain to share kudos to players in matches.

Surely, there were some naturally talented players showing some skill from time to time; others produced the odd commendable goal effort with some well-taken shots. Team play however, was way below the stage that we all know is possible.

It forced me to compare the best lads in this league with names of guys who actually represented our senior national squad from their school team and often were part of success stories for the national team as well. I remember the likes of Russell Latapy, Garnet Craig, Leroy Spann, Peter Mitchell, Graeme Rodriguez, Nigel Clarke, Garth Pollonais, Alvin Thomas and Neil Williams.

This is a time when our country’s coaches have to start enhancing their knowledge of the game and so impart the fundamentals to next season’s players.

Instead, these schools have been using some players as young as 15 against many 19 year olds, a comparison in age which is never allowed in the international world because of the possibility of injury to the younger ones.

We seem to accept mediocrity at this level of football and even compliment poor performance.

Surely, league and cup winners must be complimented for their efforts, but when thinking of the game in the long term, we must start to make serious demands from the coaches, the administrators and most of all the players.

The job for improvement must begin NOW at the schools through increased team preparations. Just look at our nation’s FIFA ranking and we shall understand the need for our youngsters to work harder than we have done in the past.