Jamaica is good, no doubt about that. Jamaica has some good, top-class players, but they are too few to match those of Australia, or New Zealand, or even England; not so much whenever they are practicing, but whenever they are fully prepared and ready to play in a truly competitive atmosphere. On top of that, teams like Jamaica lack the funding, consistently, to properly prepare for a world championship – to set up a system of development, to get a proper league going, a league to fully test the players’ fitness and skill, a league to test the player’s commitment to be the best, a league which can serve the players’ financial needs, and last but not least, to provide regular and good coaching. Playing a match calls for playing more than a quarter, or a half. A country like Jamaica can find one, or two, or three truly talented players every now and again, but it is difficult to find 10, 15, 20, 30, 40, 50 players of the fitness, skill, and dedication necessary to play a good, tough, competitive league and to field a squad of world championship winning players. IMPOSSIBLE DREAM Players like Romelda Aiken, Jhaniele Fowler-Reid, and Nicole Aiken-Pinnock, like Grace Beckford, Connie Francis, Elaine Davis, Simone Forbes, Patricia McDonald, and Oberon Pitterson before them, are good, and they are probably as good as any player in the world. Like some players from South Africa and Malawi, however, some Jamaican players hone their skills in a foreign country, in the ANZ Championship, they gain experience by doing so, they play on teams with more good players, and on a match day, in a competitive match, playing for Jamaica, they seldom find others on the team to support them, especially in a tight spot. Tough luck, Jamaica. Maybe it was not warm enough for the Sunshine Girls to shine in Sydney. The fact remains, however, that to win the World Championship of 2015 was a bridge too far, and the dream too unrealistic. Bolt, Fraser-Pryce, Atkinson and company do their thing in an individual sport, and the Reggae Boyz are mostly a foreign- based aggregation playing in foreign countries, under foreign coaches. The time for netball will come, or in time, it may come one day. As a team, however, the Sunshine Girls need more travelling girls like Aiken and Fowler-Reid, either that or, if Jamaica can afford it, they need enough money to make the sport a truly professional entity, one in which the girls can train often, play netball regularly, and live comfortably. Regardless of what happens, Jamaica must aim for the sky. At the same time, however, probably because of their size, they must count their blessings. Although the Sunshine Girls remained where they were and did not win the tournament, and in spite of the hype going into the tournament, Jamaica finished ahead of teams like South Africa, Malawi, and Trinidad and Tobago, Scotland, and Wales once again and only behind only Australia, New Zealand, and England, teams which are more equipped to provide things like better facilities, strong leagues, and better coaching, things that lead to development. Maybe it was, however, especially against England, as so often happens in sport, and as captain Aiken-Pinnock said on her return home, this time “things just did not go our way”. LACK OF FUNDING Australia were once again crowned champions at the Netball World Cup which ended in Sydney last week when they defeated New Zealand in an exciting, final match. In netball, for the time being at least, there are two teams which play for the championship of the world, and they are neighbours Australia and New Zealand. Of the 14 championships contested since they started in 1963, Australia have won the title 10 times, plus one shared with New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago; New Zealand, four times, plus one shared with Australia and Trinidad and Tobago; and to make matters better, or worse, the count shows New Zealand finishing in the runner-up position on eight occasions and Australia on two occasions. The only other successful teams, finalists, have been England and South Africa, who finished in second place on one occasion each. Trinidad and Tobago, once the darlings from the Caribbean, have fallen behind recently, but the Sunshine Girls, three times bronze medal winners, have risen to almost take their place, so much so that they have been rubbing shoulders with England while winning the bronze medal on three wonderful occasions. After getting the better of England on a number of occasions, however, including at the Commonwealth Games last year in Glasgow, Jamaica went to the championships bubbling with confidence that they would have gone even further. The aim this time was not only to beat England and cop the bronze, which they lost last time, to England, but also to match shots with New Zealand and Australia, and possibly take home the silver or gold by defeating one or the other or probably both teams in the all-important semi-finals and final. GREAT PLAYERS That was a tall order. It was almost an impossible dream. But what with Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and the many young Jamaicans who are burning up the track and leaving the world behind, and Alia Atkinson gliding away in the water; what with the Reggae Boyz’ encouraging performance at the Copa America and at the Gold Cup? No one would dare attempt to cool their ambitions a little, lest he or she be run out of town. Jamaica, despite being pushed to the hilt by Malawi, defeated every other team they played in the preliminaries, all the teams except New Zealand and England, before losing to Australia in the semi-finals and again to England in the bronze-medal match. The World Cup of Netball, at least for now, belongs entirely and exclusively to Australia and New Zealand. The big matches, more often than not, are between those two teams, with the possible exception of matches involving Australia, New Zealand, England, and Jamaica. Netball, in fact, could easily be divided into five groups: Australia and New Zealand; England and Jamaica; South Africa and Malawi; possibly Wales, Trinidad and Tobago; and then Fiji and Samoa, and then the rest.
Not yet at the brisk, skilful attacking level of prior seasons, Vassell Reynolds’ new-look Wolmer’s Boys’ managed to eke out a 1-0 win at home against St Jago High in their Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA)-FLOW Manning Cup schoolboy season-opener yesterday at Wolmer’s Boys’ School, Heroes’ Circle.Alphanso Gooden scored the all-important goal in minute 54 to give Wolmer’s all three points.Though the winners maintained about five players from last year’s team, they showed they were clearly missing the tip of their attacking pyramid, in power-forward Jaheel Hyde, who, in previous seasons, led their scoring charge.Hyde, who is the World Junior 110-metre hurdles champion, was also a Manning Cup star, but quit football for athletics.Violent conductIndiscipline surfaced in the game, which saw a player each ejected from both teams for violent conduct, while two St Jago players were ruled out of their starting line-up due to ineligible identification cards.St Jago missed their best chance of the game to level at the 71st minute when they got an indirect free kick inside the box, but Shaqon Bryan hit the ball straight into the wall.”Overall, I am pretty satisfied; 75 per cent of football is the mental aspect, and it’s something that we have been working on,” said Reynolds. “We got the ball a lot of times and, instead of passing, we kept holding on to the ball and encouraged injuries onto ourselves.”Reynolds added: “We achieved a clean sheet here today (yesterday), and it’s a work in progress. We just need to keep the ball game as simple as possible.”St Jago’s coach, Glen Laing, was satisfied with his team’s fight.”I just embrace this one. We were undermanned because of registration, but I’m not making any excuses. The game was as close as it could be. We will get a better team out there next game and I know we can beat Wolmer’s when we meet them again at Prison Oval,” he remarked of their return-leg meeting.
As many as 796 ‘at risk’ Jamaicans, 16-24 years, have benefited from the ‘A Ganar’ project that uses team sports such as football and cricket and others to teach various skills to help them find jobs, learn entrepreneurial skills, or re-enter the formal education system.The Partners of the Americas project was executed in four phases, with the first phase designed to translate sports skills to skills for employment using a sports-based methodology that emphasises the six core skills of teamwork, communication, discipline, respect, a focus on results, and continual self-improvement.A Ganar started in Jamaica in 2009. It is funded by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) of the Inter-American Development Bank, USAID, NCB Foundation, and the Jamaica Social Investment Fund. More than 14,000 youth have been trained in 15 countries in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.Pioneering countryJamaica is recognised as the pioneering country for infusing cricket-based activities in the existing A Ganar curriculum.The Jamaica Cricket Association executed the cricket aspect while Whole Life Ministries conducted the football aspect. Some were done through various community groups in eight parishes, including Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, St Elizabeth, and St James.AndrÈ Virtue of Whole Life Ministries, who was responsible for executing the programme using football, gave his full endorsement.”Youth loves sports, and sometimes when they just come to participate, they don’t know there are life lessons that can be taught through the sport, so things like conflict resolution, things like teamwork and working together, communication, we take for granted, but we use games within the sport to teach these lessons, build friendships, and more importantly, help them to believe in themselves. So it was just an opportunity for us at Whole Life Sports to play our part. We are about transformation in our country, and we see sport as one of those important tools that can aid in the transformation,” Virtue said.AndrÈ Wilson of Youth For Development Network – the local implementing arm that had overall responsibility for the project – said that it was a true team effort from different partners that came together to made the project successful.”We were able to reach and supersede our target. We have persons who graduated from the programme, and they are now entrepreneurs, persons who have found jobs, and persons who returned to school,” Wilson said.
Denham Town High surprised home team St George’s College 2-1 in a close and exciting Group C ISSA/FLOW Manning Cup football match at Winchester Park yesterday.The defeat was the first for George’s at home since they were defeated by Bridgeport in 2007.Denham Town stunned the many-time champions with two quick goals in the first half. Jerome Jeffrey opened the scoring in the 14th minute and Shevon Richards netted seven minutes later (21st) for a 2-0 advantage at the half-time break.However, in the second half, St George’s pulled back a goal when Hakim Williams scored in the 62nd minute.Denham Town played a disciplined game and came out deserved winners against the title favourites.GOOD TACTICAL GAME”Our game plan was to attack the right hand channel as we realised their weaknesses there from the first game, so we focused on that the entire week. It was a good tactical game from the team,” Denham Town coach Omar Edwards told The Gleaner.”We knew that St George’s are a team that loves to keep the ball and move it around, so we caught them on the counter and scored two quick goals early in the match. Now, we look forward to our last preliminary-round game,” Edwards, who is also a national Under-17 assistant coach, added.Meanwhile, veteran St George’s College coach Neville ‘Bertis’ Bell praised Denham Town team for their performance.”I don’t think it was our best day. Credit to Denham Town as they did not allow us to play,” Bell admitted.”We did not want to lose this game, but we still have a chance to win the group as we have another game remaining in the round,” he pointed out.The race for spots in the second round is intense as St George’s College, Innswood and Denham Town are locked on 19 points apiece. However, St George’s have a superior goal difference.TODAY’S GAMESGroup AJamaica College vs St CatherineGroup DSt Mary’s College vs Charlie SmithHoly Trinity vs St Andrew TechGroup ESt Jago vs BridgeportWolmer’s vs MonaGroup GCamperdown vs Kingston CollegeJose Marti vs WaterfordRescheduled GamesGroup BGreater Portmore vs Hydel HighHaile Selassie vs Dunoon Tech.Group CInnswood High vs Eltham HighGroup FAscot High vs Excelsior HighNorman Manley vs Jonathan Grant High (To complete last eight minutes)(The Camperdown/KC match will kick off at 3 p.m. All other games start at 3:30 p.m.)
SYDNEY, Australia, (CMC): West Indies opener Kraigg Brathwaite says his focus at the top of the order remains on playing long innings for the team’s benefit. The right-hander started the new year on a high note with a doughty, solid batting display, which held the team’s innings together on the opening day of the third and final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground before 33,000 fans. He made 85 off 174 balls in four hours, on a day truncated due to heavy rain in the second and third sessions, as West Indies closed on 207 for six. “I always look to bat long. I always look to set up the innings for my team, and that requires me to stay, provide a solid start and then look to capitalise on the bad balls, if any come along,” said the 23-year-old. “I back my technique, and I always look to play to my strengths. I enjoy batting for long periods, and that requires a lot of concentration, so I trying to dig in whenever I get a start.” Brathwaite played sensibly from the start, mixing sound defence with aggression, which brought him ten boundaries. He added 91 for the second wicket with left-hander Darren Bravo (33) after he lost opening partner Shai Hope cheaply for nine early in the morning session. Brathwaite, who made a robust 94 in the first Test, seemed set for his maiden century Down Under when he fell to off-spinner Nathan Lyon, who was again Australia’s best bowler, on a pitch offering turn. “It’s a good challenge. He [Lyon] is bowling quite well, and you just have to keep believing in your ability,” Brathwaite explained. “He bowled well to his field and, for me, it’s about trusting my defence because he obviously turns the ball a bit. Going forward, I just have to keep believing in my ability and working at my plans. “This is a tour where I’m learning. I just want to keep going out there and building a foundation for my team and learning the process.” He added: “Last year (2014-2015), we toured South Africa, and I learned a lot from that tour. It’s all about getting better as a player and as a team. There is a lot of work to be done, but a lot can be achieved as a team if we continue to play together.” Sensible playing
KINGSTON:There is a high level of interest in this weekend’s ISSA-FLOW Super Cup quarter-finals.In a release yesterday sponsors FLOW reported an elevated trend in the sale of tickets for the quarter-final round that will see reigning daCosta Cup champions STETHS taking on Bridgeport High School and Hanover’s Rusea’s High School facing Cornwall College at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in St James.At Sabina Park, Excelsior High School will oppose Clarendon College while Wolmer’s Boys School will battle Kingston College for a slot in the semi-finals. The first match at each venue kicks off at 5 p.m.Carlo Redwood, vice president for marketing at FLOW, shared that “since tickets went on sale on Tuesday, we have seen significant movement in the purchase of presold tickets for the matches. When the decision was taken to remove the purchase of tickets from the venue to our new ticket hubs, we expected the highest volumes of ticket sales closer to the weekend. That, however, is not the case this week.”According to FLOW, several of its ticket outlets – especially those in Western Jamaica, have reported long lines which started on Tuesday as persons try to secure their tickets for this weekend’s highly anticipated matchups.Entry prices: Sabina Park – $500 for enter both the George Headley and North Stands. Montego Bay: $500 for bleachers and $800 for the grandstand. No tickets will be sold at the venues.Ticket outlets located in Kingston and St Catherine, include Captain’s Bakery, Cuddy’z Sports Bar, Holy Trinity High School, Total Gas Station (Dunrobin & Stanton Terrace), Western Sports (Twin Gates Plaza), York Pharmacy and Petcom (Portmore).In Montego Bay, tickets are being sold at Captain’s Bakery (St James Street), Cars to Go (Catherine Hall), Fontana Pharmacy (Fairview) and Western Sports (Baywest). Tickets for this weekend’s matches can also be purchased at Captain’s Bakery in May Pen.
After enduring a difficult start under new boss Antonio Conte, Chelsea midfielder Cesc Fabregas says he now feels he is settling into the Italian’s system at Stamford Bridge.The Spain international seemed to be on the fringes of the Chelsea squad for much of the early season, with Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante dominating minutes in the middle of the Chelsea midfield, but Fabregas has started two of the past three fixtures in recent weeks.The former Arsenal and Barcelona man has made the most of his opportunities, scoring the winner against Sunderland on Wednesday.”People forget it’s only the second time in my life, in my whole career, I’ve played this system,” Fabregas said. “My teammates have played a lot more than me. Against Manchester City [in early December], it was a big test because it was the first game. I’m getting used to it. I feel very comfortable.”I have a lot of players in front of me, so I can pick passes between the lines. they run into space and I have protection behind me. I’m really enjoying it, and I think it suits me a lot.””People say I cannot defend, but I recovered the ball, went forward, and scored [against Sunderland],” Fabregas added. “I know what I can do, but the problem is I haven’t had minutes, and if you don’t play, you can’t show what you can do.””In football nowadays, people forget very quickly who you are, what you’ve done and what you can do. Hopefully, now I can have a run of games to keep my fitness up and show what I can do.”Chelsea’s midweek win was their 10th on the trot, and Fabregas believes his team has a good shot at winning the Premier League title.”We can compete. I’ve seen many times teams winning titles Manchester United, Arsenal, and Chelsea where these 1-0 victories are so important. Hopefully, we can keep it up.”
Afiba Chambers netted a sixth goal of the 2016-17 Red Stripe Premier League campaign in Reno FC’s 2-0 win over defending champions Montego Bay United at the STETHS Sports Complex in Santa Cruz on Sunday but trail Arnett Gardens for sixth place. It was a reversal of their first western derby of the season last November when MBU won 2-0 at Wespow Park and keeps Reno in seventh place in the standings on 28 points as Arnett (31 points) maintained the gap after drubbing Jamalco FC 4-1. But while the win was a great result, it was the way it was achieved that most pleased the club’s coach, Godfrey Drummond. “We are delighted to have won the match,” Drummond said. “But it wasn’t a great spectacle, although we played tactically beautiful in the first half. “We have incorporated the young players into our system, and so far it is working quite wellm with our senior players taking responsibility on and off the field. We are working a strategy that is paying off for us at the moment,” he said. Reno was ticking off their third victory in five matches on a decent run of form since January and Drummond says that he believes a top-six finish is within their grasp. “The aim at the start of the season was to end in the top six. Fair to say we are on target, although three points behind Arnett, who occupy sixth place at the moment. But we are happy at our recent form and now are only hoping to sustain it and continue picking up points,” stated Drummond. NEVER SETTLED MBU never looked settled on the STETHS turf, Dino Williams held in check by the Reno defence, and with Owayne Gordon along with schoolboy Jourdaine Fletcher rested because of national duties, the champions lacked the punch up front. It never mattered to Reno when Chambers fired home in the 18th minute for the lead, and it got worse for MBU when midfielder Shawn Genius, a STETHS daCosta Cup player, proved too much for defender Nicholas Stewart, with a series of step-over dribbles that got defender Nicholas Stewart in awkward position. And when Genius swivelled inside, his legs got tangled with Stewart’s, leaving referee Kevin Morrison no choice but to point to the spot. Morris then stepped up to convert from the spot to give Reno a 2-0 lead at the half-time break. In an already strange game, things got more complicated for MBU when both Deshane Beckford and second-half substitute Jermaine Woozencroft marching orders in the 47th and 64th minutes, respectively. Williams had a miserable outing, accounting for one of only two chances that fell for MBU, but head coach Dillon Thelwell said his players played with character even when down to eight outfield players. “We never played like we wanted it today, but when down to nine men, I think we started to push, which showed we have character,” said Dillon Thelwell, the MBU coach. “It wasn’t a great game, clearly, but we will rebound after this. We will shift focus a little with the Caribbean Club Championship and we need all hands on deck for that,” he said.
Magic Johnson is leading the Los Angeles Lakers again after a major shake-up of the struggling franchise’s front office. Lakers owner Jeanie Buss fired General Manager Mitch Kupchak yesterday and put Johnson in charge of basketball operations. Jeanie Buss also removed her brother, Jim, from his job as the Lakers’ executive vice-president of basketball operations. Jim Buss retains his ownership stake in the team, but Jeanie Buss has final say under the structure set up by their late father, Jerry Buss. She used it to chart a new course for the Lakers, who are mired in the worst four-year stretch in the 16-time NBA champion franchise’s glorious history. “I took these actions today to achieve one goal: Everyone associated with the Lakers will now be pulling in the same direction, the direction established by Earvin and myself,” Jeanie Buss said in a statement. “We are determined to get back to competing to win NBA championships again.”
NEXT GENERATION President of the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association, Dr Warren Blake, is confident that Jamaica’s young athletes will do well at this year’s IAAF World Relays in The Bahamas. Blake told The Gleaner that despite the absence of the star sprinters Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce and Veronica Campbell-Brown, he is very optimistic that the athletes will put on a good show in April 22-23 meet in the Bahamas. “We will continue to do well,” Blake predicted. “We have not sent the strongest team that we have because as you know, Bolt and some of the other top athletes won’t be there, but we have sent a fairly strong team.” In the previous two instalments of the IAAF World Relays in 2014 and 2015, which also took place in Nassau, Bahamas, Jamaica finished second behind the United States with 41 and 46 points respectively. Blake said youngsters in the team have a lot of quality. “These youngsters represent the next generation, and so it is time for them to get a real taste of international competition without Bolt because come July, Usain has signalled that he will no longer be competing at the international games,” said Blake. The Jamaicans took gold in the men’s 4x200m and women’s 4x100m in the 2015 event with the men’s 4x100m and women’s 4x200m and 4x400m teams winning silver medals. The veteran administrator noted that he expects the country to retain their sprint titles, but he stated that it is going to be very difficult to win the longer relays. “We have a very strong possibility in the 4x100m to beat the US because we have sent a very strong team, and so they should perform well,” Blake said. “But the 4x400m is going to be very difficult because the US has more depth than us, but I still expect us to do well,” he said. Jamaica’s 41-member team will be led by Olympic sprint champion star Elaine Thompson. The male contingent will be led by former 100m record holder Asafa Powell and 2011 World 100m champion Yohan Blake.