Jamaica’s women’s national soccer team, the Reggae Girlz, qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time in 2019 and made their historic debut in France this past Sunday. The Reggae Girlz are also the first Caribbean nation women's team to qualify for the tournament back in October. On Sunday, they took on Brazil in their first-ever World Cup match. While they did not win the contest, the experience on the World Cup stage is what matters.
Their path to the World Cup was not an easy one. They did not receive adequate funding from the Jamaica Football Federation, remaining just a thought in the country's mind until 2014, when Cedella Marley, Bob Marley's daughter decided enough was enough. She decided to make herself an ambassador for the program to garner more financial support.
In 2014, Cedella told Complex that the players not only needed money for more than the regular expenses such as uniforms, transportation, training, but also need the country's support that was given to the Reggae Boyz, the country's men's team. All of this was in an effort to qualify for the 2015 World Cup. To help cover team expenses, Cedella released a song in 2014 titled, Strike Hard, which features her brothers Stephen and Damian. This was in addition to her publicly advocating on behalf of the soccer club as well.
She said, “The girls have always been left to fend for themselves,” she told the publication. “But as women, we’re used to doing that. Nothing new. And I think the girls, with the little that they have, have been doing an incredible job on their own.”
Even with the concerted effort by Cedella, the Reggae Girlz failed didn't qualify for the 2015 FIFA World Cup, so they encountered a sharper decline in funding and in 2016 they were "disbanded" by the Jamaica Football Federation.
The news didn't stop Cedella Marley. She continued backing the women’s team, creating a partnership with the Alacran Foundation who sponsor the team. Joining the fight now, was the head coach of the team, Hue Menzies, who began the role as a volunteer. He said that Sunday was "4 years in the making."
When the resources are equal, everyone has a fair chance to succeed. Cedella Marley spoke with NPR ahead of the match Sunday and said, “Everyone should have the right to go after their dreams and passions without gender being a factor.” Khadija Shaw, a forward on the team said, "talent can only go so far when you are faced with other adversities." Even though she knows they are not tournament favorites, Shaw said, “You can never predict what’s going to happen. And I feel like we are going to be the team to shock everybody in this World Cup.”
On Friday, at 12pm, the Reggae Girlz turn their attention to the Italy women's team to bounce back from their 3-0 loss at the hands of Brazil.