Sport

Women's football looks to brighter day

...Marley’s embrace of Reggae Girlz seen as blessing in disguise

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS Assistant Sport Editor

Sunday, April 13, 2014    

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Lavern Deer, the tireless crusader for Jamaica's women's football, wears a broad smile these days having found an ally in the never-ending struggle.

Her new-found sister-in-arms is no lightweight, either. She is one who carries a recognisable name and wields a mighty sword.

With Cedella Marley the new ambassador of the Reggae Girlz, Deer thinks in her lies a secret weapon that is bound to effect changes on the frontlines of the battle for the welfare of the players and the general misperceptions of the women's game.

"Having Cedella Marley on board is a blessing in disguise. She brings the popularity from her legendary past; with a name recognition as Cedella Marley she can get the attention of funders faster than I can and that's what will catapult the movement to get our Girlz the support they so desperately need," said Deer, founder of the trailblazing Jamaica International Female Football Development (JIFFD).

"Having Cedella Marley on board is a blessing in disguise. She brings the popularity from her legendary past; with a name recognition as Cedella Marley she can get the attention of funders faster than I can and that's what will catapult the movement to get our Girlz the support they so desperately need," said Deer, founder of the trailblazing Jamaica International Female Football Development (JIFFD).

Reflecting on the enduring struggles of Jamaica's female football programme and the cancer of lack of support in particular that has stymied its growth, the Florida-based Deer says her organisation remained unflinching in its execution of the fight. And with Cedella, the daughter of late Reggae King Bob Marley, Deer believes the wind of change is indeed blowing the Girlz' way.

"This past January when JIFFD sponsored the Florida Camp for the U20 team, it was evident that the team was lacking long-term training development so they can compete against the big three Mexico, USA and Canada.

"With adequate funding the senior Reggae Girlz will get the camps, sufficient staff and most importantly, nutrition for proper development. Having an Ambassador will also ensure there is a well-oiled system in place for long-term sustainability of the programme," said Deer from her Florida home last week.

With her intimate knowledge of the issues affecting the women's programme and Marley's profile, Deer thinks the partnership will bond seamlessly. As she puts it, it's a match made in heaven.

"We will join efforts cohesively. During my years of research, I have gained a tremendous amount of knowledge of the issues surrounding the lack of corporate support for the Reggae Girlz and I designed a development programme which will ensure all areas of these issues are addressed.

"However, the immediate need is to get the senior team to the World Cup. Therefore, I will work closely with Cedella's team to tap into tangible resources we've already established," Deer told the Sunday Observer.

With the successful staging of the CONCACAF Under-17 Women's Championship in Montego Bay last year, JIFFD's maverick has seen positive spin-offs.

"This is what I've been lobbying for since 2011, for people to see the potential of this programme; the economic success of the U-17 CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers in Montego Bay last November should make everyone realise that women football is attractive and marketable," Deer noted.

She argued further in her inimitable passionate style that the renewed vigour of the governing Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) being placed on the women's game is bound to reap success.

"I believe the JFF's aggressive stance will lead the way for more investors to get on board. Keep in mind, FIFA is also pushing for the development of women's football; therefore, I encourage all those who have the ability to help to join us," she said.

In the case of the senior Girlz, who are back on the ball after the team was suspended for some four years due to a lack of funding, Deer says their return will boost the overall women's programme and its rising profile.

"We are ecstatic that the senior team is back; in fact, we are happy that Jamaica has one more chance to get a team qualified for the World Cup. With the joint effort of the JFF, JIFFD and our newly appointed ambassador, we will be prepared to get the girls the help they need," Deer told this newspaper.

"We will work closely with the Marley team to identify the immediate needs of the Girlz' training programme, strategically plan and execute accordingly. We intend to organise multiple international camps as well as practice matches.

"Keep in mind, we are late in the game as teams such as the US began training over a year ago. Therefore, we have our work cut out for us, but we are confident that with the determination of the Reggae Girlz and the support of JIFFD, Cedella and the JFF, we will produce a strong team to compete," Deer outlined.

While there's a recognised change in attitude towards women's football generally, there still remains fundamental hurdles to clear.

"The biggest hurdle is awareness and funding. However, I don't imagine those being a hurdle for much longer," noted Deer. "I am extremely satisfied that we were able to identify some of the issues and strategically took an approach to reverse the mindset of some of those who never saw the potential of the programme.

"That campaign started with the JIFFD international try-outs last May where nine South Florida girls of Jamaican heritage were selected to represent the country. Among them were McKenzie Marsh, Liana Steele, and Felicia Davidson."

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