Kudos to local premier league organisers and companySaturday, September 18, 2021
Almost exactly a year ago in this space, this newspaper voiced pessimism about tentative plans by local football authorities to resume premier league football later in 2020.
Back then doubt was driven by the then surge in novel coronavirus cases and deaths.
Just as a refresher, we noted back then that the situation was dire. Deaths from the virus had risen to 80 since the first was reported in March of that year, and the number of reported cases had reached 5,723.
It's not a laughing matter, but a dry chuckle is probably in order as we consider the situation today. Figures released by the Ministry of Health yesterday showed that, up to Thursday, 1,772 deaths from COVID-19 had been recorded in Jamaica. New cases numbered 601 for a total of 78,590 since the start of the crisis in Jamaica.
It's in that context that today we feel compelled to applaud local football organisers. Earlier this year when administrators again spoke of plans for resumption of the premier local football competition, underpinned, they said, by extensive COVID-19 testing and thorough safety protocols, many Jamaicans remained pessimistic. The task ahead seemed extremely difficult, to put it mildly.
Yet, in May of this year, the Jamaican Government — convinced that all had been done to ensure safety — gave the green light for the premier league to happen.
Fortunately, there was a reduction in COVID-19 numbers at that time, which undoubtedly influenced the Government's decision.
Kick-off of a shortened tournament, without spectators, with 11 teams rather than 12 — following the withdrawal of UWI FC — took place in late June.
Games were originally scheduled for the National Stadium; Stadium East; The UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre of Excellence at Mona; and Jamaica's headquarters of cricket, Sabina Park, on South Camp Road.
Hiccups followed. However, organisers, the Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL), sponsors and business partners led by telecoms giant Digicel, clubs, and players refused to be defeated.
But for one round of games played at Stadium East, the UWI-JFF Captain Horace Burrell Centre, with its artificial surface, became the sole venue for the Jamaica Premier League 2021.
For those of us watching on television, the football has been pleasing and the competitive spirit good.
Crucially, despite the dreadful third wave of COVID-19 cases in August and September, safety protocols surrounding the league appear to have stood up well, buttressed by a multimillion-dollar testing programme.
After three months of lively competition, the local premier league has now taken the turn for home. Teams are now into the knockout stage with league table toppers Waterhouse FC and second-place Cavalier FC through to the semi-final stage.
Four others, Mount Pleasant Football Academy, Tivoli Gardens FC, Harbour View FC, and surprise package Vere United are into play-offs starting today for the remaining two semi-final spots.
There is still some time to go before the season ends. However, we are firmly of the view that the progress of the premier league up to now represents a triumph of the human spirit in the face of adversity and negativity.
The PFJL, their business partners, clubs, and players have shown not only sports associations — now labouring to cope with the consequences of COVID-19 — but all Jamaicans that, regardless of the odds, once the desire is strong enough, a great deal becomes possible.
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