From that same core, however, there remains enough genuine talent and quality to keep the flames of hope burning. I have seen teams with players spread across both the Manning Cup and daCosta Cup this season with enough of the basic fundamentals and more – strength, power, speed, balance, pace, deft touches and vision enough raw material to be positively exploited. The mistake that many local football thinkers seem to be making is to use the comparative quality of the overall football being played in the Manning and daCosta Cup competitions to assess and identify individual talent. Individual qualities and skill sets can shine through the rubble of very mediocre play. Very special talent can emerge from a very poor team. Most football fans watch games for the entertainment value it brings, talent scouting is a different proposition. General or even specific qualities in a player can be spotted even in a poor team performance or a poor individual performance. A prospective young forward could display lightning speed down the flanks all game, but proceeds to miss three or four easy chances. The fact that he missed those chances, however, does not take away from his speed, which could be exactly what the team most needs at that point in time. It is a mistake to keep looking for the complete item when scouting young players. What will often appear are diamonds in the rough, it’s all up to the systems and structures to unearth and bring out the beauty and the value in those diamonds. A change of mindset is in the air, thanks to another failed World Cup campaign. Let us use this window of opportunity to try and change not just how our young players think about themselves as players, but in this new cycle of progress, more Jamaicans need to understand that the well is not dry and the tree is not withered. Jamaica is still producing out-standing, young football talent. Let us stop blaming these young players, for our blindness in not being able to see this talent. FLAMES OF HOPE The misguided philosophy of the aggressive and widescale importation of foreign-born players to represent the senior Reggae Boyz must have, over time, resulted in a general erosion of faith, confidence and belief in the quality of the local-based player pool. This prolonged practice must not have only affected the players themselves, who would have gradually grown into believing they really had inferior and inadequate talent, but there emerged a sense that the local fraternity in general; began to feed into the narrative that Jamaica has stopped producing talented football players. With confidence a little bit shaken myself, I started paying even closer attention to the local competitions, especially the Manning and daCosta Cups. I put myself on deliberate lookout for this so-called dramatic fall in quality of our young players. It hardly took more than a couple of games and, in some cases, mere portions of games to realise the folly, falseness and inaccuracy of this conclusion. The naysayers and preachers of doom and gloom for local talent either have an agenda, bad eyesight, or inept and incompetent judgement as to what constitutes raw talent. Jamaica is still rife with natural football talent. Various levels of talent from the ordinary to the extra-ordinary continue to be on show across the school grounds of Jamaica. The fact of the matter is, most of the 2,000-3,000 schoolboy footballers registered per season will not become superstars of the sport; the majority of these youngsters will not even play competitive football after high school.