For you, my lady

History-making Reggae Girlz get heroes reception, $5 million from Gov't

BY SHERDON COWAN
Observer staff reporter
cowans@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, October 19, 2018

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While the celebrations of the Reggae Girlz's historic achievement of qualifying for the 2019 Fifa Women's World Cup continue, the call for more support of the women's programme was the order of the day as members of the delegation returned home yesterday.

Sashana Campbell and Shanise Foster, who were the only players to return to Jamaica, along with Assistant Coach Andrew Price, led the small delegation that received the hero's welcome from Minister of Sports Olivia “Babsy” Grange and Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts, among others, at the Norman Manley International Airport.

Other members of the returning delegation included Manager Jean Nelson, physical trainer Jason Henry, team doctor Lori-Ann Miller, physiotherapist Saundria Codler and equipment manager Omar Folkes.

Meanwhile, female referees Odette Hamilton and Princess Brown, who also represented the country well at the Concacaf Women's Championships, were also recognised.

The Reggae Girlz, ranked 64th in the world, on Wednesday became the first Caribbean country to qualify for the Fifa Women's World Cup. They did so by edging Panama 4-2 on penalties after playing out a 2-2 stalemate in full and extra time of the Concacaf Women's Championships third-place play-off game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

With the historic feat, the Girlz are now following the footsteps of the Reggae Boyz, whose only qualification to the senior World Cup had France as host nation back in 1998.

But what a lot of people may not know is that the female football programme has suffered from a lack of support over the years, to the point where the senior Girlz team was suspended after their failure to qualify for the Olympics in 2008.

However, with the assistance of Ambassador Cedella Marley and the Bob Marley Foundation, the Reggae Girlz programme again took shape in 2014 and fast-forward four years later, a team is now heading to the World Cup.

“It was not one of us that won last night, it was all of us. It was a total team effort by technical staff, management team and the players, we all made a lot of sacrifice to make this possible. When we started on this journey it was called mission impossible, but last night we made the impossible possible.

“Nobody would have thought when we started in May that we would have achieved this, but we did it and we did it with dignity and we did it with humility. And I want to thank the doubters because you motivated us and inspired us to reach the heights that we have reached,” Price said in his address to members of the media yesterday.

While welcoming a symbolic cheque for $5 million from the State-run Sports Development Foundation (SDF) to the JFF, Price renewed the call for more financial support for the Reggae Girlz.

“We are thirsty for more success and it has only just began... in 2019 we are going to have to do a lot of preparation, and so I am sending the signal out to corporate Jamaica, to NGO's, to schools, to the church and all well being Jamaicans to come and support these girls, they have made a lot of sacrifices and they need your help and they need it now,” said Price.

Prior to handing over the symbolic cheque Minister Grange, also made a plea for support, as she hinted at the possibility of a Reggae Girlz day which would be celebrated nationwide.

“Yesterday (Wednesday) was a day that will go down in history, words cannot truly describe how I feel, and although we don't have all the players here today, we are planning to get them all here on a special occasion.

“It was a total team effort and I want to applaud you, you have made Jamaica very proud and I am happy that I am the minister at this time to share in this historic occasion,” Grange noted.

Meanwhile, JFF President Ricketts again praised the coaching staff, as well as the Bob Marley Foundation, Cedella Marley and Alacran Foundation for their unwavering commitment to the quest.

“I am just absolutely delighted, I just cannot express myself. We have reason to be so ecstatic today, this is probably one of the proudest moments in the history of this country.

“First time a women's team is qualifying, first time a senior team from the entire Caribbean and believe me, when I thought about it last night, I thought the minister, our sponsors, our coaches and the players would be the major players in all of this. So I am really delighted to be president when Minister Grange is in charge of sports,” said Ricketts.

“I also have to say how detailed and professional this coaching staff and the entire technical staff would have been, and these coaches, as I said in an interview yesterday, they are mentors, fathers, mothers, aunts, and uncles.

“They are sponsors, these coaches have to physically go into their pockets to take out credit cards or cash to see to the well-being of these players and congratulations are indeed in order and I am sure that the work will continue,” he ended.

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