Football has been deemed a male dominant sport for decades. Since women started playing the sport, they have had a lot to prove and far to catch up. The Caribbean, much less developing countries, when compared to first world countries, have this same issue. Not to mention being female AND residing in a Caribbean country, the stakes are indeed high.
Nonetheless, the Jamaican Reggae Girlz have made history on October 17th, 2018, not only becoming the first Jamaican female football team, but the first Caribbean female football team to qualify for the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Trinidad and Tobago came close to making Caribbean history back in 2014 at the Women’s Championship, where they also reached the final four teams in the competition.
The Reggae Girlz ranked 64th among FIFA women’s teams and had to produce a win in either the semi-final or final of the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship; both winners were scheduled to reach France 2019.
“We’ve got to persevere, get through these adversities,” Menzies said. “That’s the mentality these kids have. Their environment creates that. Where they were brought up gives them a little bit of an edge.” – Coach Menzies
The team ended up dropping the decision prior to this to Canada 2-0 to open the tournament, then was victorious over Costa Rica with a stunning goal, not to mention their triumph over Cuba (9-0) to confirm their stance. The notable players throughout the tournament for their superb skill were Ashleigh Shim, Christina Chang, Marlo Sweatman, Dominique Bond-Flasza, Jody Brown, Sashana Campbell, Khadija Shaw, and Deneisha Blackwood among others.
Despite the harsh weather conditions and other challenges, by reaching the Championship’s final four, their coach Hue Menzies believed that they already achieved their goal. They came here to play five games and they played their five games and they are on track to create history. Prior to them playing Panama, their coach was at no point doubting his confidence in his team and often kept the Girls motivated.
“We [were] very similar to Panama, so until the game end[ed] then it is anybody’s game and we just ha[d] to go out there and execute, and we feel confident that if we go out there and do what we need to do then we will get the result,” – Coach Menzies told the Jamaica Observer.
Although they were deflated from the 6-0 semifinal defeat from the United States, they never lost hope and reigned victorious against Panama with a 4-2 win on penalties. It was Khadija Shaw with her 18th goal of the competition which allowed the Jamaican team a lead fourteen minutes into the match and the sixteen-year-old prodigy, Jody Brown retrieved their lead in the ninety-fifth minute.
With Cedella Marley as the Reggae Girlz Ambassador and one of the many contributors to the team’s growth, as well as the tutelage of their Coach Menzies, along with their perseverance and faith, they are sure to make it very far in the competition. Regardless, Jamaica and the Caribbean is very proud of their achievement as they have already made history no matter the future outcome.
While Canada and the United States have qualified, the Panamanian team, who stopped the Mexico powerhouse, will go on to play Argentina next month for a space in the World Cup in 2019. Following the success of the men’s squad who participated for the first time in 1998, they did just that, created history remarkably.
“This historic victory and qualification place the girls in the pantheon of the greatest sports teams of all time from Jamaica. This win symbolizes the culmination of years of hard work and dedication by the team and management. I congratulate the team and management on making Jamaica proud. I call on all Jamaicans to rally behind the Reggae Girlz and give them all the support they need,” Prime Minister Andrew Holness commented.
“This qualification is an excellent example that as we celebrate the heroic work of our ancestors this month, the Reggae Girls have proven that they are among our modern day sporting heroines. Their win today through a penalty shootout is also an indication that our people will always succeed when they are given the opportunity and appropriate resources to excel.” – People’s National Party Jamaica.
“This is a glorious day. Words cannot truly describe this historic achievement by this group of young ladies who through sheer grit and determination in a game in which both teams went all out for victory, came out victorious. Dallas, USA, may be miles away, but at my office, we followed every kick, every tackle, every goal until that final penalty kick landed in the back of the goal. It was a total team effort, but special commendation to the goal scorers Khadija Shaw and 16-year-old Jody Brown,” said Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange.
“What the country witnessed live here, in August, and in the final round was a united, focused, and determined set of players who knew exactly what they needed to do to make themselves and the country proud,” said Jamaica Football Federation president, Michael Ricketts.
“I salute our Reggae Girlz for giving our people a gift of faith today and an inspired vision of hope for tomorrow. I salute them, for they have delivered with conviction and have already signaled that they will give Jamaica and the world their best shot. Let us give them an unqualified vote of confidence as they journey to France with history, again, at their feet,” said President of the Jamaica Olympic Association, Christopher Samuda.
By Alexandra Daley