The Jamaican schoolboy football fraternity was plunged into morning Tuesday afternoon following the death of St George’s footballer Dominic James who died after collapsing during a match against Excelsior.
The match was just four minutes old when James collapsed on the field at Stadium East, suffering from what appeared to be convulsions. The stricken player was taken to the Medical Associates Hospital by his father where he was later pronounced dead.
As new filtered back to the match, close to half-time, which was later postponed, players could be seen crying for the loss of their teammate and the team’s captain. The midfielder who was handed the armband this season was also a part of Waterhouse and national Under-20 teams.
President of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Captain Horace Burrell expressed regret at the passing of the player.
“Other than his representation at the school and club level, Dominic was just this year a part of the National Under-20 training camp and was a player and leader highly respected,” said a statement from the JFF.
“Captain Burrell expresses sympathies to the St. Georges College fraternity; the ISSA (Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association) family and all those who played with and knew this talented son of Jamaica.”
George Forbes, competition director at ISSA, said the association was saddened by news of a player who was made of sterner stuff.
“He would have spent most of his years at Jamaica College and have spent the last two years at St. George’s and to have been elevated to wear the armband of captain it obviously speaks volumes to the sort of character and tenacity of the young man. To have left a school and come to a school and be given the captain’s armband says that this young man had some class, some leadership skills,” he said.
Minister of Sport Olivia Grange described James as a young man with a bright future and said his death has come as quite a shock.
“I personally mourn with the school,” she said. “I mourn with his family. In fact, all Jamaica will mourn.”
Meanwhile ISSA is considering enforcing mandatory pre-competition medical screening for student athletes following James’ death.
Coming out of an emergency meeting held last night in the wake of James’ death, ISSA has also decided to postpone matches for both schools that were scheduled for this coming Friday to allow the players to undergo grief counselling and sufficiently recover from yesterday’s traumatic events.
Both sets of players would have been witness to James collapsing three minutes into the game and would have heard the news shortly afterward that he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.
More importantly, however, the association will be doing more to prevent such situations from happening.
“Going forward, something we are going to have to look at, is to have a form for each school to fill out to say we have checked our students and they are okay,” said Forbes, adding that such a protocol had been on the table for more than a year now.
“The schools will have to prove to us that they would have done it for their athletes before they are allowed to participate.”
In February 2014, St Jago athlete Cavahn McKenzie died while running cross country in Trinidad and Tobago. Shortly thereafter, the Heart Foundation of Jamaica offered to do pre-competition screening of student athletes at a subsidised cost.