In 2011, Jamaica’s women football team was disbanded after a lack of funding from the Jamaican Government. For three years the program was left for dead until Cedella Marley, the daughter of Bob Marley stepped up in 2014 to save the program.
Now the Reggae Girlz as they are affectionately called is on their way to France for World Cup 2019, the first female team from the Caribbean to accomplish this fete. All of this was made possible by Cedella who not only secured corporate sponsors for the team but matched it with over 4 million USD of her own money.
“Big up to Cedella Marley for putting her neck on the line for us,” Hue Menzies, the Jamaican coach told a group of reporters after securing their World Cup spot in a penalty shootout against Panama.
Since Cedella got the ball rolling (no pun intended), the Jamaican government has also stepped up and is now helping to support the team financially, a move that Menzies is confident will continue. The Minister for Sport, Olivia Grange, has promised to give financial support to the team throughout the World Cup and beyond.
“Auntie Babsy (Olivia ‘Babsy’ Grange) is making sure the team is well taken care of,” says Menzies.
Even though Jamaica will be the lowest ranking team at the World Cup they should not be overlooked as no one thought they would have made it there, a fact the Jamaican players are well aware of.
“No one was paying attention to us, so to speak, but it really wasn’t about anything else but us,” Jamaica goalkeeper Nicole McClure said.
Menzies is not concerned about who is thinking about the team, his concerned now is to get the women ready for France so they can give their best effort on the field.
“We’re going to the World Cup. Does it open the door for sponsorships? Does it open the doors for professional clubs that have male teams to go ahead and start a women’s team?” Menzies asks.
“We’re hoping that this World Cup experience, and everything that we’re going through, is going to provide some of that for these players. Our attitude is to go there and get results. We look at it as a challenge, a challenge to show the world that we can compete at that level, that stage and that platform.
“Qualifying was important but we have a bigger picture that we want to fix. We’re earning our respect, we haven’t got it, we’re earning it.”
The world will have to wait and see how well the Jamaican team will do in France but when it was all made possible by someone named Cedella, it is difficult not to think Cinderella.