A report from Face2Face Africa.
Jamaica’s senior women’s national soccer team, the Reggae Girlz, have made history as the first Caribbean team to qualify for the FIFA women’s world cup.
But this couldn’t have been achieved without the invaluable support of Cedella Marley, the daughter of Jamaican star, Bob Marley, and the team have so much to thank her for.
The team, in 2010, was nonexistent as they were having financial challenges. Marley entered the scene four years later as a sponsor and an ambassador for the team and through the Bob Marley Foundation, she was able to turn things around for the women.
That paid off on Wednesday evening when the Reggae Girlz defeated Panama’s women’s national team in a penalty shootout after a 2-2 draw in the Concacaf Women’s Championship third-place play-off.
“That support from the Bob Marley Foundation has been so important to us,” head coach Hue Menzie told FIFA.com.
“Bob Marley loved football, of course. Cedella has continued that passion and she really wants to help women’s football develop in Jamaica.”
Marley shared her excitement over the team’s win on Twitter.
“The journey has just begun,” she wrote.
Interestingly, their qualification comes on the back of the 20th anniversary of the Reggae Boyz, Jamaica’s men’s national team, qualifying for their first World Cup in 1998, which was also in France.
Marley, who was previously a singer in the family band ‘Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers’, is now a fashion designer and the chief executive officer of her late father’s record label.
The 51-year-old had earlier told news site the BBC what she thought of the Jamaican women’s team and how they should be given the necessary support to achieve their dreams.
“The Reggae Girlz have held their own against some of the best, mainly on raw talent and passion for the sport.
“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,” she said.
Jamaica women’s national football team are one of the top women’s national football teams in the Caribbean region alongside Trinidad and Tobago and Haiti.
The team were disbanded in 2008 after they failed to get out of the group stage of Olympic Qualifying, which featured the United States and Mexico. The program was restarted in 2014 after nearly a six-year break.
Due to inactivity for more than three years, the team went unranked in 2011 in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings till they met Marley in 2014 who became their official ambassador and helped raise awareness and funding for the team.
Through her efforts, the team could access training and practice matches while the Bob Marley Foundation also partnered with the Alacran Foundation, another sponsor of the team.
Their feat comes on the back of a similar one chalked by Madagascar when its men’s team booked a place at the Africa Cup of Nations tournament for the first time after defeating visiting Equatorial Guinea 1-0 on Tuesday.
This also made them the first country to qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations to be held in Cameroon.