Laurie Foster | Reggae Girlz qualification – a minor miracle
When this week’s column is being read, the island’s female footballers will be on the cusp of setting feet in France for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. It was an outstanding and historic journey in which confidence in their ability to do well on the big stage, increased with each qualifying encounter. Now, there is the type of encouraging support from fans and sponsors, which was not visible when the campaign started. Jamaica’s women are suddenly being talked about in the same context as the Reggae Boyz, who preceded them to the global showcase 20 years ago.
Not so long ago, football among the country’s females was viewed as an unwelcome incursion into territory which was the exclusive domain of their male counterparts. Those who dared to show off their talents for public viewing were labelled as being abnormal, or worse. Even at the school level where the game should be expected to have its cradle, the administrators were hesitant to accept it. Some gave it the red card. That it should, after the passage of a mere few years, be raised to the heights of international participation is truly amazing.
If one is to pay heed to the voices of some of those who comment professionally on the standard of Jamaica’s advance in the female game, the term ‘world class’ would be adopted. Let us not get carried away. That journey is a long one, and the surface has not even been scratched. To achieve such an elevated status, Jamaica is forced to go up against the established best and share honours that they enjoy. The Americans, the Brazilians, the English and the girls from the Orient did not get there on simply qualifying for a world tournament. A lot more will be necessary to keep the programme on course for additional excellence.
Maintain the momentum
So, yes, we appear to be getting there, but this should not be a call to get ahead of ourselves. More exposure and a lot more funding are ingredients necessary to explore the grass roots, maintain the momentum and, hopefully, take it to another level.
Having said all that, and in recognition of the positive aspects, one should mention the Reggae Girlz’s prolific striker, Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw. A lot has been written about her social challenges but with all that, she has been able to star the show thus far. This is a girl who has placed her sternest challenges in the background and has set sail for a career which should be a living example to those who are seeking to rise from adversity to create a superstar status. Football is a team sport but, even in that context, it would be a less-than-well-sighted individual who is unable to identify that this one is something real special. Her recent graduation from a US college with a first degree in communications only adds to her profile in a way that should be recognised and rewarded. One hopes that she will receive the support both at the club and country levels to make her the very best that she can be.
Doubts are applicable elsewhere, but if there is an area where Jamaica has turned the corner in sporting exploits, it rests in women’s football. It has been an arduous struggle. Kudos should go to the administrators, past and present, who had if only a small input to take the country to this exciting juncture, plus the players of the past who laid the foundation and can now watch and reminisce, as they, too, made their contribution.
Jamaica’s female footballers are in France 2019, and it is a good feeling. All the best is wished for them.
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