Bob Marley 1 : 0 Reggae Boys — Richard Grant


Richard Grant

It is Pan-African, Pan-Caribbean, Pan-World. It is Pan Man. It endears Jamaica to the entire world; the essence of the Rastaman Bob Marley’s music and philosophy. It is One Love. The One Love ideal of social relations works well as a cultural and political construct. It is inclusive; a necessary myth for nation building, for positive international relations and for world peace, but it severely limits the goal average of Jamaica’s football team.

Let’s get to the point. Jamaicans need to make an important decision on February 6th 2017 about Bob Marley. Betta mus come.

The Reggae Boys team internalized this concept as its philosophy. This truth is a problem. One Love is a curse on the development of Jamaica’s football program. It was a serious blow to the aspirations of their fans to ‘repatriate’ to the motherland in 2010 for the Big Dance – the World Cup Competition in South Africa. Jamaica lost the prestige of the VIP designation it gained in 1998.

The successive failures to regain membership have been blamed on the ridiculous notions of poor planning and lack of vision by the Football Federation; terrible team selection, inexperienced coaching, nonexistent team chemistry, choosing international or foreign born players over locals, appalling organization, infrequent quality practice games prior to qualifying competition and even the absence of Usain Bolt from the squad. That is absurd.

“The great Brazilian teams of the past transformed the rhythms of their culture into a mesmerizing strategy that was destructive to their opponents’ resolve.” Frankly, the Samba analogy is trite and patronizing.

On the other hand, One Love is too deeply ingrained in Jamaican musical culture as a peaceful concept for it to acquire the deadly attributes of a weapon of war; a necessary condition for success in the arms race of the modern game of football. How ironic is it that Reggae music was such a tremendous source of inspiration for the South African revolution, yet the Reggae Boys are more deserving of the Noble Peace Prize than was president Obama.

Context: The genesis of the problem

Michael Manley, Bob Marley, Edward Seaga

“Oneness” a part of the collective consciousness since emancipation, is a symbol of confidence, perseverance, survival and primarily, hope. It is promoted as a unifying concept in the lie of our motto, “Out of many we are one.”

It is in our proverbs, “one, one coco full basket”, suggesting a progressively linear, deliberate economic, societal, and individual development. It plays a role in romance. “All mih want is one chance, putus”, a young man will plead with the object of his desire, confident that if allowed just one opportunity to prove himself, their lives will be happy forever; his partner’s, even more blissful than his. Why ask for only one chance though? How limiting? {Smh}.

Nigerian icon Fela Anikulapo Kuti

The psychology of Oneness preceded Bob Marley. However, he is singularly responsible for Jamaica’s One Love image around the world. A Nigerian taxi driver asked me once, “You from Bob Marley country?” I answered, “You from Fela Kuti country?”. We compared cultural notes for over an hour. He did not mind missing fares as a discussion about Bob, Jamaica and Reggae music was too interesting to abandon. He asked sarcastically if the Reggae Boys would ever return to the W.C., smiled, and started humming One Love. With a wink, he wished me good luck, and slowly drove away. How insightful was the connection between the Reggae Boys and One Love !


The Reggae Boyz

Opposing teams come to The Office, as the national stadium located in Kingston, is called, full of confidence that they need to score only one goal to secure a win, or worse, to tie the game. Ironically, the enthusiastic, yet oblivious Jamaican fans will chant, “One Love.” The opposing team hears, “one heart. Let’s get together and feel all right”, as if the setting were a Peace Concert by the sea. What is the message to the defense? Should the forwards be saying “welcome to Jamaica? Be sure to visit the Bob Marley Museum before you leave our beautiful island. Don’t forget the souvenirs. Have you tried the best beer in CONCACAF?”

Football Diplomacy? Reggae Ambassadors?

It gives the impression that hosting a World Cup qualifying game, were a joint promotion by the JFF and the Jamaica Tourist Board. We should not forget the latter’s television commercial of the recent past, “Come back to the way things used to be.” The announcement then was, Make Jamaica great again! This scenario frames a confusing message which conditions the team to mediocrity and failure. It caps a limit on achievement. Who plays intentionally for only a 1:0 victory, unless it’s in the final minutes of a game? Begging putus for only one chance can be excused as age appropriate indiscretion of youth. Demanding One Love of a national football team is treason. Marley’s masterpiece applied in the wrong context; One Love’s unintended consequences.



The day of reckoning is February 6th , 2017. When I analyze this thing, the current state of the Jamaican football program, it makes a lot of sense that redemption will come only through a thorough rejection of One Love. Jamaicans should no longer deny the obvious. Even though unintentional, it stymied the development of Jamaica’s football. The critics of this proposal will shout, “ambush”, “blasphemy”. Their complaint is emotionally driven. “What do they know of football who only One Love know?”

Bob’s One Love, conditioned the team to fail. It is obvious that he would understand the need to denounce it. He was passionate about the game, and would not stand in the way. The supporters of the team, the Football Federation and the Jamaican people must come to terms with this alternative fact, and reconcile themselves to the necessity of a rebellion against their connection, conscious and unconscious, to the mental slavery of One Love in the context of football competition. Only Jamaicans can cure their own minds. Let’s celebrate a new Emancipation Day on Feb. 6th, 2017.

Long live Jamaican football!

Richard Grant is a freelance writer.


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