by The Professor
SOUTH FLORIDA – The Jamaican Women’s National Football team, the Reggae Girlz are on the verge of escaping the group stage at the 9th staging of the Women’s World Cup. Heading into their 3rd match of the group stage, Jamaica holds second place in the group sitting on four points, one point ahead of the ever-talented Brazil, even with France on points, but listed as second (giving deference to the next set of respective opponents for both teams).
Victory Over Panama
It is likely that many football experts ahead of the tournament’s start gave Jamaica little chance of advancing out of the group stage. Understandably, Jamaica would have been underdogs. Especially pitted against France (world ranked 5th), Brazil (world ranked 9th) and revenge minded Panama. First time debutante to the World Cup Panama has had four years to contemplate their exclusion to the 2019 edition of the World Cup. They suffered defeat at the hands of Jamaica. It was a closely contested draw that was level 1-1 at the end of 90 minutes. Per protocol, 30 additional minutes (2 fifteen-minute halves) were added. Jamaica went ahead, but Panama soon leveled. The game went to penalty kicks, where eventually Jamaica was victorious. The Reggae Girlz cemented their historic first qualification to the game’s highest stage (the Women’s World Cup).
Next Up, France
However, Jamaica opened their 2nd consecutive World Cup Campaign with an impressive draw against France to record their first ever point at the World Cup. Despite conceding 12 corner kicks, Jamaica was buoyed by their defense. The goalkeeper Sydney Schneider was able to keep a clean sheet (concede no goals) due in large part to the tireless work of, player of the game, Deneisha Blackwood. However, the draw came at a cost. In the game’s 92nd minute Jamaica’s top player striker Khadijah “Bunny” Shaw was sent off after having received a second yellow card.
The primary focus in preparation now became, the question of who? Who would be able to step into the offensive vacuum left by the impending exclusion of Khadijah Shaw. Shaw, who plays her club ball for European giant Manchester City is one of the game’s top players, a formidable offensive threat, and Jamaica’s captain. Technical director Lorne Donaldson and his coaches were successful in finding the who, enroute to Jamaica securing their first ever win at the World Cup, a One Love defeat of Panama.
Tight Knit Team
“One Love” has been an integral theme for Jamaica. The group appears especially tight knit, many of the players having been part of the previous qualifying campaign of 2019. As recently as 2013, 2014 the women’s team was an “endangered species” on the verge of extinction before the efforts of Cedella Marley and likeminded associates. Cedella Marley’s father Bob, singer of “One Love” (inspired by Curtis Mayfield) was himself a devout football player. Since 2014 Cedella and the Reggae Girlz Foundation have served as the team’s primary financier and outspoken advocate, particularly in lieu of the malfeasance of others.
Jamaica Ready For Brazil
Jamaica now heads into their 3rd group cup match needing only a draw against Brazil. However, Brazil is Brazil. In Brazil, football is king. We are not talking only from a sports standpoint. Whereas in Jamaica, Jamaica is well known for reggae music, and our extensive culinary palate, and tourism, amongst other things. Football takes on an importance that is likely unequaled anywhere else in the world. Footballs are placed in the cribs of infants (literally speaking, no joke). Perhaps 10 years ago a Brazilian toddler was signed to a 1-million-dollar contract to an academy (affiliate of club teams that develop youngsters). With his parents standing by, the toddler scribbled his name to contract via crayon.
In 1998 when the Reggae Boyz, Jamaica’s Men’s National Team qualified for the world cup, Jamaica had a population of 2.6 million. By contrast, Brazil had more than 5 million registered football players in their city leagues. Jamaica’s primary challenge will be stymying the talented forwards that ply their national participation for Brazil.
Up until press time, there have been no official viewing parties announced for the Wednesday evening match. That match kicks off at 5:30 am Eastern Standard Time, 4:30 am Jamaican time.
Those in attendance at the viewing party held on Saturday, July 29th in New Kingston were not disappointed. The home team delivered their first ever victory at the World Cup. A similar result against Brazil or even a draw WOULD transcend mere sport. Undoubtedly it would help bring greater attention to the logistical challenges that the Reggae Girlz currently are subjected to. It is quite certain that the obtainment of a result, would result in the declaration of a national holiday in Jamaica. Reggae Girlz, STRIKE HARD!