Cedella, the engine behind the 'Marley-inspired' Reggae Girlz
Sanjay Myers with REGGAE GIRLZ @ the cfu world cup qualifiers in the dominican republic
COUVA, Trinidad & Tobago — Jamaican sport teams have often suffered from slow starts to tournaments, sometimes belatedly gaining momentum at the midway stage when already faced with elimination.
The lack of background preparation has been a common complaint from coaches and officials of these teams.
The senior Reggae Girlz management staff has no such issues these days.
The Jamaicans began the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Women's Championships with a 4-1 victory over Puerto Rico at the Ato Boldon Stadium last Tuesday. Two days later, they followed with an even more emphatic 9-1 defeat of Bermuda, securing a place in the CONCACAF round of FIFA Women's World Cup qualifying set for October.
The bright start — albeit against two of the region's lesser weights — is not by chance.
Ahead of this tournament they were engaged in a two-week camp in the southern American state of Florida, locked in numerous on-field and theoretical sessions and playing the best part of two practice games.
The Girlz scored a 4-1 victory over Eastern Florida State College in a game curtailed at the hour mark due to lightning. In their second outing they trounced Broward Community College 9-0.
Jamaica's head coach Merron Gordon is pleased to have the advantage of an overseas preparation camp.
"Any team will tell you that a camp away from home is always a positive, especially in an environment like the one we had. There was no distraction and Girlz had fun, both on and off the field," he told the Sunday Observer.
"We were able to fine-tune and we are seeing a good level of camaraderie and the team spirit is really good. What we set out as our objectives have been achieved."
The camp in Florida was organised and funded through the efforts of Cedella Marley, the Jamaica Football Federation's global ambassador for the women's programme. There was a similar camp ahead of the Caribbean Cup qualifiers in June and Jamaica went on to whip St Lucia and hosts Dominican Republic 14-0 and 7-0, respectively.
Marley, a star musician in her own right, is the daughter of late Reggae King Bob Marley. She has been a shining light for the Reggae Girlz; the driving force behind the revival of the senior programme, dormant for several years due to financial reasons.
Marley is ecstatic that the Girlz' vibrant 'Strike Hard' campaign has hit the spot.
"Preparation is always key in any and everything you do. Being able to have the camp and take the Girlz into a different environment, you can see the results. If we can continue to have these camps you are going to see more good results," she told the Observer as she watched the Girlz hammer Bermuda into submission.
"It's a joy to be here and watch them, though I'm a nervous wreck," she added, unable to restrain a spell of affable laughter.
"But they are happy, dedicated and they are actually working hard. These girls are not taking anything for granted and they 'appreci-love' [appreciate] everything we are doing and you can see it. They love football."
And as Jamaica faced Haiti late yesterday in the Group A decider, she was anxious for the perfect gift to celebrate her 47th birthday that evening.
"They play on my birthday...this is a family and we are all very excited to see the Girlz do well."
Coach Gordon praised the input of Marley and her support team — vociferously cheering en bloc from the stands at each and every game.
"When you have a sponsor like Cedella Marley, who ensures things are in place for the Girlz, it is a big benefit for the programme.
"To this team she is everything...she is sponsor, mother and a motivator. She is just awesome and this is one of the best things to happen to Jamaican football," he declared.