Sports

It's been a long time coming!

Diaspora pioneer Lavern Deer salutes Girlz on World Cup success

Friday, October 19, 2018

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PRESIDENT of the USA-based Jamaica International Female Football Development (JIFFD) Lavern Deer says the Reggae Girlz's historic qualification to the Fifa World Cup resonates beyond the shores of Jamaica.

JIFFD is a Jamaica Diaspora organisation whose sole purpose it was to raise awareness and support for Jamaica's female footballers.

But over the past couple of years, the organisation has rebranded and is now focusing on broader issues affecting Jamaican women, including human trafficking and other forms of abuse.

The general welfare of Jamaica's women's football programme is now being spearheaded by its ambassador, Cedella Marley, and the Marley Foundation.

The Girlz became the first Caribbean team on Wednesday night to qualify for the Fifa World Cup when they outclassed Panama 4-2 on penalties in the third-place play-off match of the Concacaf Women's Championship at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Both teams were locked at 2-2 after regulation and extra time and had to go to the dreaded penalties for the tie breaker.

The USA, who defeated Canada 2-0 in the final on the same day, also progressed to the France 2019 World Cup. Panama are still in with a chance of going through, but must get the better of Argentina in an home-and-away tie next month.

“I am super elated with the success of the Reggae Girlz, and I must first and foremost congratulate Elaine Walker-Brown (chairperson of JFF Women's Committee) and Jean Nelson (team manager) for staying the course and working so hard.

“I also want to thank the Marleys who came and took the mantle and continued the support for them,” said the USA-based Deer, who now heads the morphed Female Development World Organisation.

The Jamaican-born Deer reflected on her first encounter with Jamaica's women's football.

“I would also like to thank our Diaspora community, because when I was first introduced to the situation of girls not being supported in sports, and the Reggae Girlz in particular, I went to Jamaica and did my research and came back here and got the Diaspora involved.

“I just want to say that awareness is key, and we as a community believing in our girls and supporting them, and seeing the success that can come in the end is a beautiful thing,” she noted.

“Having these girls knowing that a community believed in them gave them the motivation to work harder to make our country proud, and that is exactly where I am right now, where I can say I was a pioneer of the movement in raising awareness for the programme,” Deer added.

She recalled the first training camp that JIFFD co-hosted for the Under-20 Girlz team, and said she takes particular pride that some of those players are today part of the successful unit.

“We hosted our first international training camp in West Palm Beach, and girls such as Konya Plummer (team captain) and Khadijah Shaw, who are representing the team now, were members of that camp, among others.

“What we tried to do is give them the motivation to believe in themselves. There is so much meaning to this [success] that words cannot express, and now I truly hope that not only women's football, but anything that women do, the community will believe in us and believe that we are the future,” Deer added.

“I now want to see us as a community rally behind them so they can go to the World Cup and do us proud and I believe that girls are the future and we should support them,” she ended.

— Sean Williams

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