Jamaica marks Grassroots anniversary

MONA, Jamaica -- Planting seeds for the future is the primary goal of any FIFA grassroots program. On Saturday, in Jamaica, it was no different, when the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), as well as its partners, including Digicel, commemorated the one-year anniversary of its own initiative.

The celebration, which was held at the JFF Football Centre, was complimented by the attendance of Hugo Salcedo, CONCACAF's Director of Development. He was pleased with what he observed and is optimistic over the prospects of Jamaican football.

"The impact of the Grassroots Program in Jamaica will be long-lasting, not only in the sporting side but also in the human side," said Salcedo, a former FIFA Development Officer for the region (2001-2004), aiding member associations with their FIFA Goal programs. "Grassroots is the essence of football, it's where everything begins; friendships, trust, discipline, then the talent is discovered.

"Thanks to this program, Jamaica will have good players and good citizens in the near future."

Program director Andre Virtue, a former midfielder for Jamaican clubs Harbour View and Waterhouse, began the day with a presentation on the year's activities.

"When we first started the goal was to empower the Parish Association's and we controlled the numbers by having 100 persons per session" Virtue told CONCACAF.com. "We are not just coaching football but we are coaching a life through football.

"If we only prepare players to be the best players and not good people we would have failed them, the country and the sport. Grassroots football is the anchor that positions the football programme to have a sustainable future."

The Grassroots program is aimed at creating an enjoyable environment for boys and girls between the ages 6-12 to be exposed to the sport's fundamentals. It is guided by the philosophy that children learn best through play and the more they play is the more they learn.

Since the start of the program last May, some 1,400 children and 350 coaches have participated in grassroots-related activities.

Salcedo, who also attend the JFF Advanced Level I Coaching Course on May 5, hopes that other countries take Jamaica's lead and implement similar programs.

"Jamaica will be used as an example for other Member Associations to follow," he said. "The Member Associations are not alone.

"They have support from FIFA, CONCACAF, and what they need to do is to assemble a strong-committed group such as the one in Jamaica. They will need a marketing person, who can help them get sponsors for the program; a media person, who can disseminate the news; a strong coach, who can teach and coordinate the program; a public relations officer, who can bring in all the pertinent parties, such as the Minister of Sports, Minister of Education to support the program. This is the winning team."

Jamaica is well on its way to building and sustaining that squad for the long term.