Tanya Lee | Strike Hard, Reggae Girlz
The big news this week is, of course, that Jamaica has qualified for yet another FIFA World Cup Final! The Reggae Girlz have created history in becoming the first national senior women’s football team from the English-speaking Caribbean to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup.
This is a momentous achievement when one considers that our women’s team is currently ranked 64th in the world and joins two other teams from CONCACAF, to date, world number one, USA, and world number five, Canada. This is a big deal!
Now, I’ve watched with bated breath as the women’s team have impressed match after match and win after win. Kudos to head coach Hue Menzies,and assistant coaches Andrew Price and Lorne Donaldson on steering our women’s team to history. Jamaica celebrates a return to France 20 years after our senior men’s team made their World Cup Finals appearance there in 1998. It’s the stuff fairy tales are made of.
Fairy tale aside, our women’s team did a great job. They did not just randomly get to this position of success. Their qualification is a result of planning, preparation, and partnerships. Special thanks to Cedella Marley, the Bob Marley Foundation, and the Alacran Foundation. The UK-based partners of the Reggae Girlz have aided the team in being able to set up training camps in Orlando and Jamaica since April of this year. It is a testament to how much sponsorship support goes a long way as the coaches, administration, and players were able to focus on performance and zone in on training and execution with little worry about the financials.
Hopefully, this qualification will see a resurgence in the women’s football league across the island. The league has been dormant since 2016 largely based on a lack of sponsorship support. There is also some negative social stigma attached to girls playing the game in Jamaica. But while women’s football has struggled here in parts, it continues to evolve massively globally and has gained increasing prominence since the success of the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the US national women’s team, which is ranked higher than their male counterparts.
There are professional football leagues across Europe and the US, and this is yet another avenue for the development of the immense talents of our women. In a perfect world, the feeder programme for the national programme is, in fact, the local football league, so sponsors give women’s football an equal chance at development in the world’s most popular sport.
As we move forward in developing the programme, the teams will require more support. Speaking to the JFF’s sponsorship and marketing director, Sophia Harris Lau, the women’s programme is in need of some US$500,000 in sponsorships, for the 2019 World Cup Finals and the Pan American Games. The team is also seeking to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Now the women’s team currently comprises overseas-born and overseas-based players. I’ve seen a few comments on social media alluding to the composition of the team not quite representative of the women of our island. For me, this is similar to the approach taken in 1998 with the men’s team, where the programme was still in its developmental stages, and so the JFF fielded what they considered the best team to achieve the best possible results.
Bolstering the Team
The strategy of bolstering our team with overseas-born players in the developmental stages is a tried and proven method until our league becomes the feeder programme. The entire buzz from our World Cup qualification is around our 16-year-old sensation, Jody Brown, from Lime Hall, St Ann. Brown won the tournament’s young player award and scored four goals for Jamaica. She is quite talented and should be making her mark on the world very soon!
Going forward, it’s key that we continue to grow the women’s game. This requires a plan around women’s sports, support for our players, growing awareness and promotion of the matches and the team successes, and building a fanbase through televising the matches. The global game is growing. It’s great to know that Jamaica now has a seat at the table.
Strike hard, Reggae Girlz!