Jamaica Summer Sports Scene is Hot, Hot, in Flames

by De Professor

SOUTH FLORIDA – Although the size of the country, 144 square miles remains unchanged (not withstanding Pedro Cay, Goat Islands, or Mr. Crawford’s suggestion to offer a goat in Portland), it is very difficult for one to argue that Jamaica is small.

There is definitely nothing miniscule Jamaican in the arena of sports, bobsled team and all withstanding.  This summer boasts a line-up of Jamaican participation in sports on the world stage, unlike any other previous.

Premier League

The battle for the Premiership of English football is as hot as a 1-0 match between 2 hated rivals.

For a majority of the last month, Liverpool and Manchester City have been separated often by only a single point. The defending champions Manchester City, are bolstered in large part by their relatively diminutive attacking midfielder Raheem Sterling.

Sterling is the team’s second leading goal scorer and the sixth overall goal scorer in the entire EPL.  The Jamaican born Sterling, is 4 years removed from being a member of the Reds of Liverpool.

While at Liverpool, he played alongside fellow Jamaican Daniel Sturridge.  Sturridge who is a striker, has yet to fully recover from the injuries that have hampered him for the past 3 years.

However, he along with Sterling have both been capped as members of England’s national side, much to the dismay of Jamaican football fans.

Six years ago, both Sturridge and Sterling were intensely pursued by Horace Burrell and the Jamaican Football Association.  Both Sturridge and Sterling have been noted for their philanthropy in giving back significant monetary contributions to Jamaica.

Reggae Girlz
Jamaica Summer Sports Scene is Hot, Hot, in Flames with Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz set to make Historic Debut at FIFA Women’s World Cup in France

Jamaica’s National senior women’s soccer team, the Reggae Girlz
Photo courtesy of the Jamaica Football Federation

Jamaica’s Reggae Girlz are en route to France to contest the 2019 edition of the Women’s World Cup.  The Reggae Girlz, by virtue of their October 17, 2018 defeat of Panama (in penalty shootout) became the first ever Caribbean team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup.

The Reggae Girlz, Jamaica’s senior national women’s team was disbanded in 2008, due to a lack of funding by the federation.

In 2014 with the help and drive of various beneficiaries rose from the ashes to competitively contest inclusion into the 2015 Women’s World Cup.

The talent dormant due to aforementioned reasons quickly surfaced once the organizational and funding issues were SOMEWHAT alleviated.

The Girlz gave valiant effort before losing to Mexico in October of 2014, and subsequently failing to qualify.   It is now Jamaica’s women who are headed to France, 21 years after the Reggae Boyz went to France in ’98 to contest the World Cup.

Some similarities abound when comparing the 2 teams, the Reggae Girlz and the Reggae Boyz.  The name on the lips of JA fans in 98 was that of Walter “Blacka Pearl” Boyd.

Jamaican fans currently are saying Bunny (not Wailer) but Khadijah “Bunny” Shaw.  Like Boyd, she is a very brilliant striker.  She leads the team in scoring during the World Cup qualifiers (Deon Burton ’97).  Like Boyd she is Jamaican born, Jamaican based (both teams Reggae Grilz and Reggae Boyz).

However, unlike the Pearl, Shaw is disciplined, a team leader, and is poised to potentially carry the team’s offensive efforts largely on her shoulders.   Shaw recently signed a contract with NIKE.

South Florida, home to many of the Reggae Girlz, home to many Jamaicans, will have a chance to see and support (yes financially as well) the Girlz as they are slated to be in South Florida in the week preceding Memorial Weekend.

Reggae Boyz

Jamaica’s senior national football team, the Reggae Boyz will be competing in the 2019 edition of the Gold Cup.

The Gold Cup is a football tournament under the purview of CONCACAF, the Confederation of North American and Caribbean Football Associations.

Optimism and excitement is high amongst Jamaican fans by virtue of the team’s last 2 Gold Cup successes.  In both 2015 and 2017 Jamaica finished second, losing to Mexico and the US respectively.

Jamaica’s National Stadium will be host to 2 of the group matches on June 17.  The first match will see Curacao contesting El Salvador, before giving way to host Jamaica vs Honduras.

Jamaica’s other 2 group matches will take place in Houston, Texas and Los Angeles, California (at later dates in June).

Last week, a Pre Gold Cup friendly vs the United States (long rumored) was confirmed by both associations.  Jamaica will play the US on June 5 at Audi Field outside of Washington, D.C.  

The last time the 2 teams met in D.C. in a World Cup Qualifier in 1997, the US was awarded a very fortuitous penalty kick that allowed them to draw level with Jamaica.  The game ended 1-1.

ICC Cricket World Cup

The 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup will be contested in England this summer.  The West Indies opens competition against Pakistan on the last day of May.

The team of 15 recently announced, is comprised of 1 Guyanese nationals, 4 Trinidadian nationals, 5 Bajan nationals, and 5 Jamaican nationals.  Notable inclusions on the team are batsman Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Carlos Braithwaite, and Darren Bravo.

The resurgent Gayle looked very impressive in leading the West Indies in their recent ODI conquest over England, including scoring 162 off of 97 balls to bolster WI to their highest ever run total  in ODI of 389.

The adventurous Caribbean sports fan may be able to commute between France and England to participate in both events.

2019 IAAF World Championships 

The 2019 World Championships will be contested in Doha, Qatar between September and October.

The Jamaican men’s team has struggled in the face of Usain Bolt’s retirement to find the dominant sprinters that it has recently enjoyed.

The doping ban of Nesta Carter, the decline of Asafa Powell, the injury problems of Yohan Blake, the absence of Bolt, and a myriad of other issues all have been contributing factors to Jamaica’s inability to dominate the world stage recently.

Conversely, Jamaica’s women’s team appears to be very well and in a position to exert themselves.  100 meter champion Elaine Thompson has continued to display the form that earned her Olympic Gold.

The reemergence of the “Pocket Rocket” Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce has certainly been god sent.  Pryce appears that she will soon find the dominant form that she had, before she took 18 months away to welcome her first child.

Closer to home, Fort-Lauderdale based Brianna Williams in the last year has firmly planted her 2 feet on the world stage, and she is poised to follow in the lines of Thompson, Fraser, Veronica Campbell, Kerron Stewart, Merlene Ottey, and the distinguished Jamaican sprinters that have preceded her.

Williams is only 18, if she remains injury free she will definitely take her place amongst the sport’s greats.

Do not sleep away this summer.  If you do, you will miss a great summer of sports, particularly for the fan that wears the black, green, and gold.

Do your best to support the teams, buy a ticket, buy a jersey, contribute financially, attend a match or 2 or all of them.

For those wishing to purchase football jerseys and or West Indies Cricket Jerseys feel free to call Ralston 786-506-6139.

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