by The Professor
SOUTH FLORIDA – Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz have qualified for the round of 16 o/c the knockout stage of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Jamaica has employed extreme frugality. Despite advancing on five points, (courtesy of one win and 2 draws) par for the course, Jamaica has scored only one goal. One goal! The fact that they have conceded no goals, is the reason for their promotion. However, the Reggae Girlz are no stranger to frugality and austerity.
Reggae Girlz Foundation Support
Subsequent to their qualification to the 2023 World Cup, the team, primarily vis a vis the Reggae Girlz Foundation spearheaded by Cedella Marley, has embarked on “unorthodox fundraising methods”. Unorthodox in the sense that it is generally a country’s football federation that is given the mandate to procure funds, especially for its senior level teams.
However, the Jamaican Football Federation’s “malfeasance” is well documented. Issues arise consistently with both the men’s and the women’s national teams, particularly in the arenas of players and coaches being paid, funding for camps, and numerous travel related logistical failures.
Numerous persons affiliated with the team have demanded “the slice of the cake, that the Girlz have helped to bake” ( Sugar Minott song). There have been allegations that monies released from FIFA to be paid to the women’s team, have ended up being purposely and wrongfully allocated to the men’s team. In essence ” robbing Princess to pay Paul”. Be not disheartened ladies, Paul himself has been underpaid.
History Making Effort
In spite of this adversity, the Reggae Girlz have qualified for the round of 16, leaving behind “brand name football powerhouses” 9th ranked Brazil, 2nd ranked Germany, and perennial contender China. It is the first time in the history of the tournament that Germany and China have failed to advance past the group stage.
It deserves mentioning that many also hold the opinion that biases exist amongst both sports commentators (especially of a certain nationality) and football governing bodies, with regards to the teams that they would like to see successfully contest the World Cup.
Some of these biases are evident in the questionability of officiating calls, the failure to use VAR (video assisted refereeing), and the dissemination/lack thereof of yellow and red cards.
Media outlet CNN erroneously (or purposely) released a video of a “Jamaican” team that consisted of an entirely Caucasian team, subsequent to their draw against Brazil.
Recently, Rene Simoes was presented with a “key to the city” of Mandeville, Jamaica. Simoes is the Brazilian National served as the Reggae Boyz Technical Director from 1994-2000 and subsequently guided the team to its only ever World Cup appearance in 1998. When asked about his thoughts on the current quality of Jamaica men’s football, Simoes remarked that they were a very talented team.
Individually, the aggregation of players may have been superior to the World Cup team of 1998. However, he pointed out, that World Cup qualification is not merely about having a better team. He pointed out that World Cup qualification is WAR! The player’s need to possess that mentality that they are going to war, and Jamaica’s current men’s team lacked that all important requisite.
Any objective spectator of Jamaica’s final group stage match against Brazil, would acquiesce to the fact that the Reggae Girlz indeed possessed that “war mentality”. No ball went uncontested, be it a 50-50 chance of winning it or 90-10 chance. No tackle was entered into lightly. None of the 12 Jamaican participants’ jerseys went home unsoiled. No substitute on the sideline was texting via Whatsapp or checking their boyfriend’s Instagram account. Every inch and every ounce that could be mustered out of every body frame was utilized. Be it 5’11’’ or 5’2’’. Every ounce of the banana and oats porridge that one of the participants may have consumed prior to the match was utilized. Every ounce of water and Gatorade was used.
South Florida’s Jody Brown, who had been valiantly up and down (the pitch) the entire match could give no more. In the 85th minute, she reluctantly gave way to Jamaica’s youngest player on the roster, 17 year old Solai Washington. She, along with the rest of her teammates left everything on the field. Physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically.
Well deservedly it can be anticipated that the Reggae Girlz will undoubtedly take 24 hours to rest after the match. The physical toll, the mental strain, the pressure that a match and subsequent result of the magnitude may have exerted, should not be underscored. After that rest, the focus will most obviously shift to their next opponent group H winners Colombia.
The second place finish that Jamaica attained is in hindsight a blessing. Had they finished first they would have lost the “relative” familiarity that they have achieved since arriving in Melbourne (Australia) on the 31st of July.
The second place finish means they stay in Melbourne ahead of Tuesday’s 4 a.m. (EST) showdown with Colombia. The match will be played in the same exact stadium, which will hopefully give Jamaica somewhat of an advantage. Presumably, they’ll stay in the same hotel, eliminating the need to pack bags. And they will not have to take the 90 minute flight to Adelaide (South Australia). Adelaide will be the site of the match between (group F winner) France and first time debutante (to the World Cup) Morocco. Many Jamaicans are familiar with the name Melbourne in most part due to the name’s affiliation with cricket. Melbourne cricket club is the 3rd cricket club formed in Kingston (Jamaica). Its origins, date back to 1892.
Making Jamaicans Proud
Jamaicans from across the globe have been very visible across the social media platforms expressing their “support” and enthusiasm for the progress the Jamaican Women’s Football Team has made. However, Jamaican captain “Bunny Shaw” was not overly impressed. In a post-match interview she alluded to (did not directly say) that some support now may not be genuine, but indeed Wagonism. I am confident that many members of the team, support, and coaching staff embody that same sentiment, especially in lieu of the financial issues that the team has been subjected to.
Undoubtedly, there are plans underway somewhere in Jamaica to host a public viewing party. Up until press time, there is no cognizance of any similar plans in South Florida. In spite of the 4 a.m. (EST) kickoff on a Tuesday morning undoubtedly, numerous persons would be interested in attending an organized viewing party.
South Florida Ties
Jody Brown, currently a senior at Florida State University, and others have strong ties to South Florida. Former Reggae Girlz technical director Hue Menzies who led the Girlz to their first World Cup in 2019, is the founder and executive director of Central Florida Kraze, a football club in Orlando. Forward Cheyna Matthews is also a Florida State Alum.
Reggae Girlz, continue to STRIKE HARD!