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Hubert Lawrence | Challenges can fuel Reggae Girlz at World Cup

Published:Thursday | May 30, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Members of Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz squad stretch before the start of a training session at the National Stadium in January.

In 2009, a dispute about Jamaica’s pre-World Championship training camp threatened to dilute the meet. The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association (JAAA) was on the brink of expelling five athletes from the national team when Lamine Diack, president of the IAAF, intervened. Let them run, he decreed, and sort out the dispute when you get home.

Diack’s intervention paved the way for Jamaica to win seven gold medals in a total of 13. Even now, a decade later, it is Jamaica’s finest performance in a major international track and field championship.

We can only hope that the troubles assailing the Reggae Girlz recently will have the same effect. The dispute that barred assistant Reggae Girlz coach Andrew Price from his duties in the last fortnight could have thrown them off. As I understand it, the dispute didn’t relate to his work as coach, but the matter looked set to eliminate him from the coaching team that has helped the Girlz qualify for the most important tournament in the history of Jamaican women’s football. Thankfully, balance has been restored and coach Price will join the team very shortly.

POOR TRAVEL ARRANGEMENTS

As if that disturbance wasn’t enough, the team’s travel arrangements have come under scrutiny for all the wrong reasons. Instead of red-carpet travel for a team that has made history, reports speak to roundabout routes and inadequate information on the details to the players and support staff.

The FIFA Women’s World Cup will be tough enough without these annoyances. When the games begin, Jamaica will face Brazil and Italy, who both have fine football traditions, and an Australian unit that will fight to the very end.

The Girlz needed smooth passage to France so they could focus on the job at hand. Instead, they have had to cope with these distractions.

Those who live sport know that all you can do, no matter which opponents lie ahead, is to put yourself in the best position to win. As things stand, the dispute surrounding coach Price and the untidy travel arrangements could unnecessarily jeopardise the performance of the Reggae Girlz.

Travel trouble appears often enough in sporting news headlines that it might be time for a dream team of sports travel experts to take charge when big units like the Reggae Girlz are on the move. It clearly does no good for the Girlz to be meandering on routes that waste time that could be used to prepare for important assignments like the World Cup. This entity might report to the Jamaica Olympic Association or the Ministry of Sport.

Notwithstanding the travails, the presence of Jamaica at another World Cup is a milestone. As odd as it seems, some Jamaicans are too young to even remember when Robbie Earle scored our first World Cup goal, or when ‘Tapper’ Whitmore put two past Japan to put Jamaica amongst those nations to actually have won a World Cup game. After all, that was 1998.

Thankfully, a large throng of knowledgeable fans turned out to watch the home game against Panama on May 19. Though the crowd wasn’t the full house that watched Tapper, Bibi, Pepe and company when they played in the same National Stadium 20-odd years ago, the Girlz know they carry the hopes and dreams of all Jamaicans. All the fuss is behind them. Now it’s almost time to play.

Hubert Lawrence always travels overseas with his Jamaica 1998 World Cup shirt.