President of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Michael Ricketts announced on Tuesday, December 18 an annual fundraiser geared at assisting ailing former national footballers.
Ricketts was speaking as a guest at the St. Catherine Municipal Corporation’s (SCMC) official ceremony presenting the keys of Spanish Town to Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz for qualifying for the 2019 World Cup in France.
“The JFF was touched by the conditions of some of our former footballers and national players. Based on what we would have seen, we decided that it is time now, that the JFF, does something for what I term ‘destitute’ former national players,” he said.
The inaugural fundraiser will be held on Sunday, December 30 at Drax Hall in St. Ann and will become an annual event on the JFF’s calendar – being held on the last Sunday of every year following.
President Ricketts argued that in their prime, these ailing athletes gave years of discipline, talent and flair to the sport and made the nation beam with pride as and the local governing body, the JFF wants to assume the responsibility of helping these footballers in their time of need.
“This is now going to be a calendar event on the last Sunday in every year will be set aside for a fundraising game to help some of our brothers who have fallen on hard times,” he said.
Already, Ricketts further explained that the line-up for the inaugural fundraiser game will have two events – a masters’ team comprised of former national players up against a celebrity all-star team and the current senior national squad taking on the national under-23 (Olympic) team.
Minister of Sport Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange welcomed the initiative, citing that many former national representatives for Jamaican football do not get the support the most need in times of illness – a trend she is happy to see changing.
“I must congratulate the president on the initiative for setting up a welfare fund, because I see too many athletes, who in their days they were great and then as they get older, they fall on hard times,” she said.
“We have to find a way to ensure that those who have contributed to the development of Jamaica, that when they get older, and when they are no longer seen as ‘current’ stars, that they are also taken care of and there is something in place to help them,” Grange remarked.
Most recently, former national striker Luton Shelton was diagnosed with Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a rare neurological disease that mainly affects the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement. Voluntary muscles produce movements like chewing, walking, and talking. The disease is progressive, meaning the symptoms get worse over time.