Tue | Jul 23, 2019

Paul Wright | Reggae Girlz need more support

Published:Tuesday | May 21, 2019 | 12:15 AM
National forward Trudi Carter (left) powers up for a shot on goal after getting by defender Katherine Castillo as Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz took on Panama in a friendly international match at the National Stadium on Sunday.

Jamaica’s senior women’s football team has qualified for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France next month. This feat is a first for a small Caribbean island and a first in the history of women’s football. Some fans think that this is a monumental occasion, but somehow, this achievement is surprisingly low-key when compared to a similar occasion involving their male counterparts who qualified for their World Cup in 1998, also in France.

That time, Jamaica got a one-off public holiday, as well as near-hysterical celebrations islandwide. What could be the difference? Conventional wisdom tells us that the World Cup in the male version of the beautiful game is much more popular, both locally and worldwide, and that with women’s football, there is not even a regular domestic league that could give local football fans something to cheer for. And yet, our ladies made it! They qualified for the big stage! Wonderful! But what has happened since?

There has been a kind of celebration, with the minister of sport doing a lot to propel these ladies into the psyche of local football fans and, most importantly, to try to get corporate Jamaica to come on board and be part of this historic achievement. Financial support has been lacking, even to the point where ‘men in suits’ tried every known public-relations trick to get these ladies and their support staff to accept substandard remuneration and benefits as they continue their preparation for the big show.

On Sunday, in their last international friendly before leaving for Europe, our ladies, having finally got an offer that was acceptable in lieu of their contractual obligations, put on a show of full-field domination over a full-strength Panama team that they had struggled to beat in the qualifying tournament.

FITTING SEND-OFF

Our soon-to-be-designated Sportswoman of the Year, Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw, scored two and assisted in one in the 3-1 demolition of Panama. A truly fitting send-off as our ladies move on to Europe to continue their preparations. What is next? More struggles in trying to have the best facilities and conditions as their preparation continues? Or will we now see some of our corporate giants step up to the plate and support these ladies with the cash and kind that was manifest when our male counterparts reached the same stage in 1998? Based on what was manifest at the National Stadium on Sunday, these ladies should not be overwhelmed or embarrassed in France. The nation will celebrate and be proud, and everyone who could have helped and supported, tangibly, will be up front on the bandwagon shouting, “Go Girlz, mi did know!”

ATHLETIC CAMP RIVALRY

The achievement of these ladies in reaching the Women’s World Cup is monumental. I don’t expect national holidays and gifts of land for these ladies, but Lordy Lord, we need to throw much more of our cash and kind behind their continued preparation. Brand Jamaica will continue to reap untold benefits from this campaign. Let some of these benefits rub off on this group.

Finally, as the post mortem of Jamaica’s performance at the recently concluded IAAF World Relay Games in Yokohama, Japan, unfolds, stories continue to surface of major dissent and tension among our representatives at this year’s renewal.

It is now high time that the Jamaica Olympic Association and the Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association take a position on this rivalry between camps as it is not going away and, as I have been told, intensifying.

Quoting from the ‘anthem’ of losers, “We didn’t do badly, we came second,” and minimising the catastrophe that was our performance at the World Relays in Japan will only allow what is a sore to fester and boil until it erupts, to our embarrassment and disgrace. A word to the wise SHOULD be sufficient.