Reggae Girlz, coach get prestigious Concacaf awards

Deputy sport editor

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

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I n 1998, Jamaica's Reggae Boyz were the pride and joy of the nation's football when they made their historic appearance at the Fifa World Cup in France.

Twenty years on, their female counterparts — the Reggae Girlz — are the ones basking in another historic feat by becoming the first team from the Caribbean to qualify for a women's World Cup.

Call it kismet or sheer coincidence, but the Jamaican female footballers, too, will have their moment of glory in France in the eighth edition of the Women's World Cup June 7-July 7 this year.

But the momentous achievement of booking a spot at the game's showpiece has not gone unnoticed.

In addition to numerous accolades won in the immediate wake of qualification in October 2018, women's football in Jamaica continues to rake in the awards.

In their annual awards announced yesterday, sub-continental body Concacaf, through popular vote, has awarded Jamaica's women's footballers the Outstanding Performance of the Year.

Also, Reggae Girlz tactician Hue Menzies was named Coach of the Year for a female team, while strikers Khadija Shaw and Jody Brown were selected to the Concacaf Female Best Eleven.

Shaw, who is a nominee for Jamaica's Sportswoman of the Year, was the runner-up to the USA's Alex Morgan for Female Player of the Year, and had the distinction of third best goal of the year across both sexes.

That means Shaw's goal would be the best by a female player in 2018, which came in the Concacaf Women's Championship, the World Cup qualifying tournament in a group game against Cuba, in Texas, last year.

No doubt, it has been a watershed year for women's football in Jamaica, and Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) President Michael Ricketts could hardly contain his excitement in saluting the heroes of the women's game — past and present.

“Well, we are just absolutely delighted and this has been made possible by the achievements of our ladies, and I can't reiterate enough the hard work some of our pioneers would have done, and I must mention people like Ian Forbes and Sherwin Williams who, when women's football was hardly marketable, stuck with us for 14 long years as our main sponsorship partners,” Ricketts told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“Vin Blaine, as an individual, Elaine Walker-Brown, Jean Nelson, and in more recent times the Alacran Group, the Bob Marley Foundation, our coach Hue Menzies and his team, and of course our young ladies who would have been part of this historic achievement,” Ricketts added.

The Concacaf awards, Ricketts noted, keep the feel good tingle going as the fairy-tale World Cup qualification continues to be a source of pride for the administration.

“These girls have really done very well and, based on the most recent news of their achievements within Concacaf, are certainly something that we at the JFF can gloat about. Congratulations to the girls again, and their achievement must be the catalyst that must provide some kind of inspiration for every young girl and boy in some of our impoverished communities,” said the JFF boss.

“These girls have now made it very clear that it doesn't matter where you are from, who you are, you can reach great heights as long as you stay focused, work on your football skills and academic prowess. The sky is the limit,” said Ricketts, a first-term president of the local governing body.

He singled out 21-year-old Shaw and 16-year-old Brown for their recognition by Concacaf.

“Congratulations to Khadija Shaw and Jody Brown, who would have made the Concacaf XI; that's no ordinary achievement… let me remind you that these girls are from Jamaica with less than three million people and a country that is so short on resources and facilities, but the commitment and the loyalty that have been shown by Khadija and Jody make it most rewarding,” Ricketts noted.

Shaw, who scored an unmatched 19 goals throughout the qualifying process, had previously been named Footballer of the Year by The Guardian newspaper in England, while Brown was adjudged the Best Young Player for her exploits at the Concacaf qualifying tournament.

For Coach Menzies, Ricketts said the award was “well deserved” for more reasons than one.

“Menzies and is technical team have played so many different roles in the achievements of our young ladies. They were coaches, they were mentors, they were fathers, they were uncles, they were sponsors, so this achievement must be lauded.

“They did such a wonderful job… each of them would have been so knowledgeable about the sport of football that they complemented each other very well,” Ricketts ended.

Meanwhile, Assistant Coach Andrew Price weighed in on the achievements.

“We are extremely elated and excited that our team won the Concacaf Performance of the Year award, and that is across male and female, and that, to me, is a significant achievement.

“I must also congratulate Coach Hue Menzies for being chosen as the Coach of the Year. We must also congratulate Khadija Shaw and Jody Brown for making the Concacaf Women's Best Eleven, and particularly Khadija Shaw for her excellent performance in our qualification and being the runner-up for Female Player of the Year, just being edged out by Alex Morgan of the USA.

“These awards are a testament to the sacrifice the team has made throughout 2018, the effort that has been put in by the technical staff, support staff, the JFF, the Ministry of Sports, the JOA (Jamaica Olympic Association), the sponsors, Bob Marley Foundation, Alacran Foundation, all who stood by us through trying times,” said Price.

The award for Male Player of the Year went to Mexico's Hirving Lozano.

The annual awards, which began in 2013 and are being presented for the sixth time, recognise players, coaches and referees at all age levels, who have excelled in Concacaf and Fifa-sanctioned tournaments involving the Confederation's national teams and clubs.

The awards are presented following an equally weighted vote among national team head coaches, national team captains, experts from the media, and millions of fans.

(See related story on Page 46)

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