Tue | Jan 28, 2020

‘Sponsor us’ - Gilbert laments lack of financial support for local women’s league

Published:Monday | December 9, 2019 | 12:18 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer
Waterhouse’s Jessica Johnson (front) leaps to avoid a challenge from Olympic Gardens defender Stephanie Morgan in their JFF Womens’ Premier League fixture at the Drewsland Stadium on Saturday, August 24, 2019.
Waterhouse’s Jessica Johnson (front) leaps to avoid a challenge from Olympic Gardens defender Stephanie Morgan in their JFF Womens’ Premier League fixture at the Drewsland Stadium on Saturday, August 24, 2019.

Waterhouse FC women’s head coach Xavier Gilbert has said that the lack of sponsorship for local women’s football is hampering the future of many talented prospects.

Gilbert led Waterhouse to their second straight JFF Women’s Premier League (WPL) title on Saturday. The Drewsland-based club defeated Cavalier 3-0 in the final at the Spanish Town Prison Oval. Davia Richards netted all three goals for Gilbert’s team, who were also mid-season champions.

However, Gilbert said that a lack of resources prevented the team from executing anything close to ideal preparation, and he argued that what he sees as the continued neglect of local women’s football has reduced the opportunities and avenues available to the nation’s best talent, who have the potential for scholarships and professional contracts.

“It’s going to be extremely difficult (to keep the programme alive next season), and I am sure all the clubs are facing similar problems,” he said. “I see [that] clubs, on a whole, don’t take the women’s programme seriously, and that has to change. It is extremely sad to know that the [national senior women’s] team qualified for the World Cup last year and played in it this year, and we cannot tie down a sponsor for at least three years. It is sad and unfortunate, but someone has to step forward and help us.”

Gilbert said that his season was tough off the field and that only Waterhouse’s quality and experience pulled them through.

“It wasn’t a good season,” he said. “Thankfully, we had some quality players, individuals who stepped up to make this victory a reality. But in terms of preparation, there wasn’t much training or training on a regular basis. We had to rely on talent and experience from the ladies. But we can’t be on the heels of qualifying for Olympics, the biggest stage there is, and have players like Khadija Shaw, Deneisha Blackwood, and others getting professional contracts and making a living out of it, and we are not taking it seriously. Something has to be done.”

Limited Attention

He noted that former Reggae Girlz head coach Hue Menzies met with the local women’s football coaches and outlined some of the requirements for the local girls to be considered for the Reggae Girlz, and he believes that the continued neglect of the nation’s WPL will only make it that more difficult for young female players to grasp opportunities available to them.

“They have to be performing at a high level to be considered for the national team, but not much attention is being paid there,” Gilbert said. “But we have to try and implore and provide the platform for the young ladies. Since the team qualified for the World Cup, clubs around the world are demanding Jamaicans, but if the [local] players aren’t given the opportunity and the platform to display their talent, then it’s going to dampen their future.

“This is a platform for young ladies. Khadija Shaw broke the goalscoring record for Jamaica, and she is among the top strikers in the world, and she came through the high-school and club system here, so we can’t allow this to prevent them from achieving their goals. We have to find ways to provide this type of avenue and opportunities for them to excel.”

livingston.scott@gleanerjm.com