Bon Voyage!

Reggae Girlz get French-flavoured World Cup send-off

Deputy Sport Editor

Thursday, May 16, 2019

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Two things, more than any other, are truly French — food and wine.

In addition to the language of the romantic providing the audio backdrop to the room, the globally celebrated French cuisine and hospitality were gloriously on show at the ambassador's residence on Hilcrest Avenue in St Andrew on Tuesday afternoon.

It was lunchtime, and the special guests were Jamaica's history-making Reggae Girlz, who got an early taste of France with an exquisite French-Jamaica-fused menu of pork, chicken, fish, rice and a variety of salads.

As far as the champagne went, the Girlz opted to keep it on ice, perhaps after their World Cup exploits when they may have reasons to pop the cork.

The early afternoon soiree was an official farewell for the Jamaican footballers orchestrated by major sponsor Supreme Ventures Limited and fittingly hosted by the French Embassy.

On the guest list were the French Ambassador himself, Denys Wibaux, plus colleagues Canadian High Commissioner Laurie Peters, Chilean Ambassador Francisco Bernales and Argentina's Ariel Hernandez.

Joining the party were also senior representatives of three other diplomatic missions to Jamaica.

On the Jamaican Government side, in attendance were Minister of state in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information Alando Terrelonge and Florette Blackwood, who brought greetings from the “unavoidably absent” sport minister, Olivia “Babsy” Grange.

Also partaking in the laid-back occasion were top executives of Supreme Ventures, including Deputy Chairman Ian Levy, plus a sprinkling of local and French journalists.

But the stars of the occasion were the Girlz, who are preparing for their big send-off friendly international against Panama at National Stadium on Sunday.

“I am very happy here today to be able to say Bon Voyage, or safe trip to France to the Reggae Girlz… it will be amazing to see the Girlz at the World Cup in my country, France, and 21 years exactly since the Reggae Boyz also went to the World Cup, which was actually our first (France's) win,” said French Ambassador Denys Wibaux.

“I am very, very happy to be with the Girlz today to celebrate this beautiful achievement of qualifying for the World Cup, which continues Jamaica's extraordinary success in sports.

“You have Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, Usain Bolt and now they have the Reggae Girlz in this World Cup and I think that is absolutely amazing,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

Wibaux said that Brand Jamaica's popularity in the picturesque European nation will no doubt make the Girlz one of the favourite teams for the French people.

“Jamaica is very popular in France, and I know my people love the reggae music, and when they discover that the name of this team is the Reggae Girlz, that will be popular with my people,” he noted.

In their Group C matches in the June 7-July 7 tournament, Jamaica will face Brazil, Italy and Australia, and the Frenchman said he will be routing for the Girlz all the way.

“I will be cheering for Jamaica, of course, no need to ask that… I will be watching my TV with friends and supporting the Girlz,” he said with a hearty laugh.

President and CEO of Supreme Ventures Ann-Dawn Young Sang said hosting the Jamaican female football contingent was a “celebration” of their achievement of qualifying for the World Cup.

“These young women have realised that they are given an opportunity and they intend to make the best of it, and we need to support that, and the beauty about it, is they are willing to share it with others, especially when you hear about the journey and the individual stories, it's just amazing.

“The country needs to celebrate them for their achievement, and we want to send them off and to let them know that the country is behind them,” said Young Sang.

She said her company was drawn to support the Girlz by their expressed “passion” and “drive”.

“It was a no-brainer for us when we heard about the Girlz and it was timely because we had started to revamp our image… I know that sometimes women are left behind and I remember that the coach had a challenge getting sponsorship, and the minute we heard about their plight, we volunteered,” Young Sang told the Observer.

The Supreme Ventures boss paused to recognise the Observer for its Reggae Girlz Ultimate Fan Promotion, which rewarded its winner and her guest with an all expense paid trip to France to watch the team play.

“In that giveaway, the lady who won said it was the first time she was winning anything, and that was great, but what this showed was how corporate came together, a synergy and I think that's how we need to work overall because the opportunities are there to help many others.

“I think that promotion was a brilliant idea by the Observer, especially how they were able to get other sponsors and partners to come on board and it shows how forward-thinking the Observer is in trying to connect, and that was just brilliant,” Young Sang ended.

Meanwhile, Head Coach Hue Menzies underscored the value of the role of sponsors, but challenged them to commit beyond the France campaign as the women's programme goes beyond the senior Reggae Girlz.

“Obviously the federation alone cannot support us the way we need to be supported, and we understand that, so we have to look outside the box for corporate sponsors and they are the ones who are putting out the extra effort.

“But what we really want to see is a commitment from these companies beyond the World Cup in France because we have the U17s and U20s… we are thankful of the sponsors, but we are hoping that they prolong their support beyond the 23 young ladies heading off to France and to keep those partnerships going for the next 10 or 20 years,” the coach pleaded.

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