Congrats to the Reggae Girlz; now let's not lose this momentum

Friday, October 19, 2018

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On Wednesday, the entire nation was overcome with euphoria as our beloved Reggae Girlz became the first ever Caribbean team to qualify for the Women's World Cup to be held next year in France.

The scenes of unbridled joy in Texas, United States, where the Jamaicans were playing Panama, and indeed across the length and breadth of the Rock when Ms Dominique Bond-Flasza scored the winning penalty in the shoot-out were reminiscent of 1997 when the Reggae Boyz qualified for the France 1998 World Cup. Again, Jamaica had done the unthinkable of qualifying for football's most prestigious tournament and the nation celebrated this historic achievement as one.

The words of Reggae Girlz coach Mr Hue Menzies, as carried in yesterday's Jamaica Observer, sum up the feelings of not only the Girlz themselves but the nation as well: “I'm telling you, this is a lot more than football. This is a statement. We're going to go back home and celebrate. There's not a whole lot of space on the island, but we're gonna find every inch to celebrate on because this is history, history in the making.”

Indeed, Mr Menzies is correct. Jamaica did create history as we did in 1997. The hope now is that the entire Jamaica — Government, private sector and the man on the street — will partner with our history makers as they prepare to defend our honour and pride on the playing fields of France next year.

Women's football in Jamaica, separate and apart from some forward-thinking companies, has never commanded much attention from either corporate Jamaica or Jamaicans in general, as it is often seen as a very poor second cousin to the men's version of the game. Now the tables have turned in a significant manner as, while our Boyz dither and fumble, the Girlz have stepped up, and the black, green and gold is once again flying with distinction across the world.

There are lessons to be learnt too. When the Reggae Boyz qualified for France 1998, many believed that it was the start of a new era in our football development. It did not materialise; since France we have been unable to secure a World Cup spot. And while the Boyz have done well in other major tournaments like the region's Gold Cup, Jamaica has been unable to reach the lofty heights of 1998.

This must not be allowed to happen with the Reggae Girlz. President of the Jamaica Football Federation Mr Michael Ricketts and his team should be already planning and plotting to ensure that the fate of the Girlz, over the long term, is not driven down the route of a one-hit wonder. They have to be supported, they have to be protected, and there has to be thought given from now for the development of new talent.

We know it is going to take astute planning and financial support as nothing in this world is for free, and that is why we are calling for that support from now.

Jamaican sportsmen and sportswomen have brought tears of joy to our eyes. They have, through their exploits, unfurled our flag as more and more Jamaica became recognised among the sporting giants of the world, especially given our size and population.

Let's rally around the Reggae Girlz and ensure their sustained growth and development.

Heartiest congratulations to the Reggae Girlz, the coaching staff, technical team, and those who supported and stood by them over the years. We are proud of you.

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