Montesso laments limited growth in Jamaica’s football

ALFREDO Montesso has made Jamaica his second home. He’s been in and out of the island since his arrival in 1996 as part of a Rene Simoes-led football expedition force.

The mission: To transform Jamaica’s football, and to achieve the unthinkable and qualify for the World Cup. The rest, as they say, is history.

Montesso, like his fellow Brazilians, had come a long way from his homeland in Brazil to take up the Jamaica football cause that has not gone exactly to plan as far as he is concerned. But the fight goes on to bring the nation’s game in line with the long-nurtured vision of the Brazilian.

Perhaps, now that he’s technical director, he will be better positioned to chart that course.

One major disappointment for Montesso after Jamaica had qualified for France 1998, is the limited growth of the overall football landscape.

“To be honest, I am not that happy because it has been 15 years since we qualified for the World Cup and at this point I think we should have better quality football in Jamaica, especially because we see some improvements in the structure of the football, but not the one that will allow the players to improve more,” said Montesso, who will continue as deputy to senior head coach Theodore Whitmore.

The Brazilian, while celebrating improvement in aspects of Jamaica’s game, is cut most deeply by what could be deemed a non-progressive youth system. That is if what exists can even be called a system, based on Montesso’s critique of it.

“I think that without a consistent youth programme within the clubs in Jamaica we are really denying the young boys the opportunity to develop. When you take (Darren) Mattocks, for example, who is 22 years old and who will soon be 23, and who has been showing up in the scenario of professional football in the past one-and-half years, he was 21 years old at the time (when he got his break),” he argued.

Montesso’s argument is entrenched in the fact that young Jamaican players are being introduced to organised football too late in the game, therefore hindering their development and ultimately the broader football programme.

He cited external examples of the perfect scenario of the ideal process of development of the young player cognisant of the Jamaican realities.

“So when you see players in the world progressing their lives, like Neymar now who is signing a contract with Barcelona at 20 years old, he has this condition because his development started at eight years old when he was attached with Santos.

“He didn’t start his career right now, when he was 18 years old he had 10 years at Santos already… and Messi was the same as he was attached to Barcelona when he was 13 years old, so this is what gives the players condition to develop themselves,” said Montesso.

In comparison, Jamaica’s young players are at a tremendous disadvantage as most of them begin their development in the high school system, which in Montesso’s view, is not and will never be good enough.

“If you look at our youth players, Under-17, Under-20 and Under-15 which we will be starting on the national level, those players are attached to the school system. Don’t get me wrong, I am not criticising the school system, but it’s no good for them to play 12 games per season, to play three months of football is not good enough for them to develop, and that is not good for development in any other sport,” the Brazilian told the Jamaica Observer in The Bahamas recently.

Montesso, who first came to Jamaica as Simoes’ physical trainer, said after 15 years of going to the senior World Cup, Jamaica should be in a better position in terms of fundamental development structures.

“I expected to see after 15 years more structure inside of our football, which would give those young players the opportunity to get a chance, as sometimes we struggle to pick our Under-17 and the selection is not usually the best because we don’t have a competition structure that will give coaches better opportunities to select players with more quality.

“I think we really need to establish a programme because right now we are just driving a car and don’t know where we want to go, so when you drive a car and don’t know where you want to go, then anywhere you get to will be good enough for you,” said the Brazilian, a former player in his homeland.

“What we need to be is consistent with this philosophy (youth development) that we have and don’t lose our direction,” Montesso ended.

Even though Jamaica’s youth system is a comparatively fickle one, the nation still was able to send male teams to three age-group World Cups. It started with the Under-17s to New Zealand in 1999, following by the Under-20 to Argentina two years later, and again in 2011 the Under-17s to Mexico.

Montesso was involved in all of those successes in one way or another.

Meanwhile, Jamaica’s senior Reggae Boyz continued their preparatrion for upcoming home CONCACAF World Cup qualifers against Mexico on Tuesday and the USA on Friday with a morning training session at the National Stadium yesterday.

MONTESSO… I think that without a consistent youth programme within the clubs in Jamaica, we are really denying the young boys the opportunity to develop (PHOTO: SEAN WILLIAMS)

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