Laurie Foster | How far can the Girlz go in France?
The nationally acclaimed thrust of Jamaica’s female football ambassadors, the Reggae Girlz, towards the FIFA World Cup finals in France this summer, received a slight jolt recently. Just when it seemed that the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) had learnt its lesson during a similar stand-off with the Reggae Boyz’s coach, Theodore ‘Tappa’ Whitmore, there were signals that another agonising dispute was looming over salaries for the coaches.
Back then, it was only on the intervention of Sports Minister Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange that a crisis was averted and the preparation programme set back on course. Give praises that, in the current situation, another quagmire seems to have been sidestepped for now. Up to this point, the goodly minister, in the present scenario, has not been called on to utter her usual conciliatory magic words.
During this challenging period, the JFF president, Michael Ricketts, claimed to have sent remuneration contracts to the coaches for their perusal and, hopefully, acceptance, followed by their signature. The coaches denied any receipt and things appeared to be heading for an embarrassing stand-off. That is now apparently out of the way, as both the coaches and players have received contract offers from the JFF. It would be good if these contract matters are settled very quickly. The primary focus at this stage should be how much can the country enhance its sporting image through the ensuing engagements on the field of play.
Jamaica is drawn in a preliminary round group, which is completed by Brazil, Italy and Australia. Several persons from among the sport’s top echelons are displaying admirable confidence as to the ability of the team to advance to the next round. Should this happen, it will be a major achievement in the annals of the country’s sporting history. It would stand firm in comparison to the gold medals won by Jamaica in the 1948 and 1952 Olympics. All things considered, there ought to be no difference between that occurrence and the conquests of the West Indies cricket team, starting with the epoch-making triumph over England in the Lord’s Test match of 1950. But how can it become a reality and not just simply an ingredient of wild dreams?
A series of confidence-building practice friendlies has already been launched. So far, there have been victories (1-0 and 3-2) against fellow qualifiers, Chile. More games are planned, with opponents named being Panama at home and South Africa, Scotland and, perhaps, one other on their home turf. This is encouraging and shows that the JFF is highly aware of the arena into which the team’s efforts, so far, have taken it.
Another pleasing aspect of the campaign is the way in which the girls are dealing with the inescapable fact that some may not make it to France. Several who played their part in the qualification process have expressed their emotions by wishing the final team all that is positive, while accepting that seats on the plane must be occupied by the best of the lot. It is as if they are saying, “I would love to be there, but should I be replaced by a better player who came in late, then so be it.” Foster’s Fairplay is liking this selfless position. It demonstrates a firm support of the coaches and their impartial intent to field the players who show the greatest form at the time of asking. It should also be a filip to the chosen ones as they go into competition, in that their inclusion is supported by those who were originally in the mix, but unfortunately did not make the cut.
To keep the ambitious nature of the campaign on course, more than what has been cited will be required. Already, an upgrade in interest from the general public has been noted. The increase of crowd support for the games against Chile may well be an indication of that. It needs to be matched by the leaders of the private sector who, to their credit, have been responding. Foster’s Fairplay is urging more from that corner. To expect big returns for funds invested in these girls might be a genuine risk. However, is that not which exists in any major investment in the economic climate of 2019?
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