Jamaica qualify for Women’s World Cup with help from Bob Marley’s daughter
Bob Marley is one of Jamaica’s favourite sons, but it is the late musician’s daughter who is revelling in the nation’s latest sporting success.
Jamaica have become the first Caribbean team to qualify for a women’s football World Cup and it’s Cedella Marley – the first-born daughter of Bob – who the Reggae Girlz have to thank.
In 2010, their team ceased to exist, only for Marley to come on board four years later as an ambassador and sponsor with the Bob Marley Foundation and help turn their fortunes around.
That turnaround was completed in Texas on Wednesday evening, when Jamaica defeated Panama on penalties in the Concacaf Women’s Championship third-place play-off – a feat that has been described in the Jamaican press as “almost super-human”.
‘Daddy would not be surprised’
Twice Jamaica took the lead over Panama and twice the Central Americans equalised, before Dominique Bond-Flasza scored the winning spot-kick to send the ‘Reggae Girlz’ to next year’s World Cup in France.
“Big up to Cedella Marley for putting her neck on the line for us,” head coach Hue Menzie said after the game.
However, it was far from easy watching the drama unfold Marley told BBC World Service: “There were a couple of moments when I had to leave the room [watching the match] because I was going light-headed.
“I went outside and started to meditate. By the time the last penalty went in we were all on the floor. Daddy would probably not be surprised, when I put my foot into something stuff happens. He’d be like, ‘that’s my girl’.”
Previously a singer in the family band ‘Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers’, Marley, 51, is now the chief executive officer of her late father’s record label as well as a fashion designer – creating Jamaica’s kit for the London 2012 Olympics.
Eight years ago, the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) cut funding to its women’s football team, totally disbanding it, leaving the team unranked in the Fifa world rankings due to three years of inactivity.
But in 2014, Marley became the team’s official ambassador and has been working with the Reggae Girlz ever since, while co-lead sponsor Alacran Foundation has also provided what the JFF called “substantial funding” to support the Girlz in their World Cup campaign.
She previously told BBC World Service how she thought the team would become “a very dominant presence” in women’s football, should they ever receive the same amount of investment the nation’s track and field stars receive.
“The Reggae Girlz have held their own against some of the best, mainly on raw talent and passion for the sport,” Marley said.
“We still have a lot to prove. A lot of people make history but the only way to keep our relevance is to keep winning. We don’t compete to qualify, we compete to win.
They will bring that passion to English soil later this month as they play Nottingham Forest Ladies in a friendly on 28 October.
The Reggae Girlz will then turn their attention to next year’s French adventure – but not before plenty of celebrations back home.
Twenty-one years after the men’s side first played at the FIFA World Cup™ in France, Jamaica’s women’s team will, coincidentally, also be making their global finals debut in the European country. A spirited side, the Reggae Girlz made history by becoming the first Caribbean nation to qualify for a senior FIFA Women’s World Cup™ after finishing third at the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship. Sixteen-year-old forward Jody Brown, who put in a string of impressive performances, was named best young player of the tournament.
The road to France
Jamaica had to navigate through the Caribbean zone of qualifying just to get to the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. The Reggae Girlz went undefeated, eventually finishing top of the five-team final round group with Khadija Shaw scoring a staggering 16 goals. Jamaica continued to impress at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship, and after finishing second in Group B behind eventual runners-up Canada and losing in the semi-finals to overall winners USA, they faced Panama in the match for third place for a berth at France 2019. With the score poised at 2-2 after extra time – with prominent goal-getters Shaw and Brown finding the net – the Reggae Girlz won the penalty shoot-out 4-2 to earn their first ever Women’s World Cup berth.
Brazilian Rene Simoes led Jamaica at France 1998. The honour at France 2019 will go to Hue Menzies. The person who has helped the Reggae Girlz find their rhythm, Menzies boasts over 30 years’ coaching experience and has a particular plethora of knowledge when it comes to university football in USA. After reaching France 2019, Menzies said: “I’m telling you the amount of sacrifices we’ve made – the staff, the players – for the country, we’re going to change the culture back home. How they perceive women, it’s changed. It’s a big sacrifice. And you know what? Those 20 girls decided they were going to make the change.”
4 – The number of goals forward Jody Brown netted at the CONCACAF Women’s Championship at the tender age of 16, making her Jamaica’s top scorer at the tournament. Brown was named best young player at the competition and will naturally be one to look out for at France 2019.
MORE ON THE RAGGAE GIRLZ’.
On 17 April 1991 the team had their first international match against Haiti, which they lost 1–0.
In August 1994, the Reggae Girlz were defeated by the United States team with a final score of 10–0.
In 2002, the Reggae Girlz qualified for the Women’s Gold Cup, but lost all of their preliminary round games.
In 2006, the team qualified for the Women’s Gold Cup again and finished in fourth place.
In 2010, due to lack of funding, the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) cut the senior women’s program as well as the women’s Olympic program. The team was then unable to participate in the qualifiers for the 2011 Women’s World Cup.
In 2011, due to inactivity for more than 3 years, Jamaica went unranked in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings.
In April 2014, Cedella Marley was named the team’s official ambassador and as such she helped the team with their fundraising efforts.
In July 2014, it was announced that Jamaica was looking for players with Jamaican heritage in countries as far as the United Kingdom in order to improve their squad for the 2014 Women Caribbean Cup in Trinidad and Tobago.
They again went unranked by FIFA in June 2017.
In May 2018, Jamaica began the first round of Caribbean Zone qualifying, this was the first time the team had assembled in two years. Jamaica won their group and advanced to the final round of Caribbean Zone qualifying. They hosted the final round tournament and won all four games securing their spot at the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship.
In 2018 Jamaica also competed in the 2018 Central American and Caribbean Games. In the group stage they had a record of one win and two losses and did not advance to the knockout round.
At the 2018 CONCACAF Women’s Championship Jamaica was drawn into Group B alongside Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba. In their first match against Canada, they played well but lost 2-0. Jamaica secured an upset 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in their second match, thanks in part to the great play of goalkeeper Sydney Schneider. In their final group match against Cuba, Jamaica won 9-0. As a result of Costa Rica losing their final group match, Jamaica finished second in their group and advanced to the semi-finals where they would face the number one ranked United States. The US defeated Jamaica 6-0, in the semi-final. Jamaica won the third place match against Panama on penalty kicks and secured a spot at the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Jamaica is the first Caribbean nation to ever qualify for a Women’s World Cup.
World Cup record
CONCACAF Women’s Championship & Gold Cup record
|20 April 2018 2018 CFU Women’s Challenge Series||Jamaica