'I knew something special was on the horizon'

JOA boss says he's not surprised by Girlz' historic World Cup qualification

Saturday, October 20, 2018

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The Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA) has lauded the historic achievement of the Reggae Girlz' qualification to the Fifa 2019 Women's World Cup Finals, which will be held in France.

It is the first time ever that a women's team from the Caribbean has made it to the senior World Cup.

The team secured the feat on Wednesday night when they secured a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win over Panama in the third-place play-off of the Concacaf Women's Championship, in Frisco, Texas.

The countries could not separate themselves through regulation play, when they ended 1-1, and even in extra time, the scores were tied 2-2. This led to the nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out.

“Our girls showed admirable composure as they focused on victory, which they knew from the very beginning was well within their grasp and resided in their DNA,” said Christopher Samuda, president of the JOA, the island's parent body for sports.

The JOA had played an instrumental role in the Reggae Girlz' final stage of preparation for the crucial Concacaf play-offs, by facilitating the Jamaica team's participation in the Central American and Caribbean (CAC) Games in Barranquilla, Colombia, in July-August.

“I saw and felt in Barranquilla that spirit among players and management which signalled to me that something special was on the horizon, and that our exploit in Colombia would be a precursor to a claim on the global stage and a coveted space in sporting history,” Samuda pointed out, highlighting the heart-warming moment and the way it transcended into hoisting the true Jamaican spirit.

The JOA, which has embarked on a quest to significantly raise the level of all sports in the country and have Jamaica represented in at least 10 disciplines under its '10 in 20' goal for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, had been approached to grant the senior Reggae Girlz' the opportunity to gain vital practise at the regional sporting spectacle by Michael Ricketts, president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF).

Guided by Head Coach Hue Menzies and fellow Jamaican assistant coaches Lorne Donaldson and Andrew Price, the Reggae Girlz got tremendous practise against top South American nations Venezuela and Colombia, as well as Central America's Costa Rica.

Ryan Foster, CEO of the JOA, noted the benefits of the CAC Games experience, calling it a “most timely intervention” for the camaraderie, self-belief, and other team-building assets that were derived through the near month-long camp.

“The Jamaica Olympic Association is extremely proud of the achievement of our Reggae Girls in qualifying for the World Cup. Who said sport is dying in Jamaica? The JOA is impressed with the drive of the current management of the JFF in growing the sport in Jamaica, and this achievement is a testament to the work being done thus far,” said Foster. “It is this drive and achievements like this which encouraged the JOA to sponsor the JFF Olympic squad and their bid to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.”

The CAC Games also marked a first for the Jamaican female footballers, as they had never played against South American opponents before. The Girlz duly utilised the chance to place themselves on a record-setting path by recording history in a football match against a South American country, after defeating hosts Colombia 2-1.

In the highly competitive tournament they also played with much guts, determination and quality in heartfelt 2-1 loses to Costa Rica and Venezuela, matches in which they had more than an equal share of opportunities to have won.

Foster stated: “We saw at the CAC Games the unity that was built within the Reggae Girlz' team from then, and was pleased to have facilitated such level of preparation before the qualifiers. I hope such an achievement will galvanise the sport and other sports in their own respective quests for sporting excellence.”

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