Reggae Girlz mixing it up with brain and brawn


Reggae Girlz mixing it up with brain and brawn

Thursday, April 04, 2019

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DURBAN, South Africa — Jamaica's Reggae Girlz' recent successes have been fuelled by an intoxicating mix of brain and brawn.

Those two qualities stirred in with a generous dash of skill, Jamaica's female footballers are flying high, a golden era underlined by their historic qualification to the Fifa Women's World Cup.

Clearly, the unprecedented heights of the women's game did not come only by brute force, but by players who have put a scholastic spin on things.

A good look for the team is that every player in the 20-member squad here for a one-week camp and game against hosts South Africa on Sunday can boast of travelling the academic road.

Football and academics have mixed to great effect in shaping the consummate player, but also marrying both has created the complete human being.

Reggae Girlz Jadyn Matthews and Brittany Simpson are living examples of the great potential for those pursuing the parallel endeavours.

“I think it is important to have both (football and academics) as you never know what will happen in the future… I think that having an academic background helps you think in a different way,” Matthews told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

“Like the six position (centre midfield role), you have to have vision and make smart plays, how to link up, whether to play simple or when to play long… you have to calculate different things. Also, you have to know who you are playing with and their styles and you have to consider a lot of variables before you play, so I think that having brains does help and oftentimes you will be forced to think outside the box. For me I see things differently on the field, so I think that is a special quality I bring to the team,” said the Cornell University freshman.

Matthews, 19, said when she was looking for a college, she sought one that would allow to her to pursue her twin passions of football and medicine.

“I was definitely looking for an environment where soccer and academics could go hand in hand, and that's one of the reasons why I chose Cornell,” said the Florida native, who can be deployed as a defender or midfielder.

Matthews, who was a member of the Under-20 Girlz unit before moving up to the senior ranks, said her passion for medicine started with her exposure to the field through her stepfather.

“I grew up around my stepdad, who was an anaesthesiologist, and he always had me around health fairs and doctors… I want to be a paediatric surgeon because I want to be around kids, plus I want to save lives,” she shared.

Matthews, who was born to Jamaica parents David Matthews and Lisa Quarrie, is a relative of Jamaican Olympian Donald Quarrie.

Meanwhile, defender, 22-year-old Yale University senior Simpson says she believes “soccer and academics go hand in hand”.

“Having an education is important, but I have been doing soccer and school for so long that it keeps me organised, but yes education is very important.

“Having brains on the soccer pitch is important because you can have skill and still not able to read the game and education will give you that background that will help your soccer,” said the chemistry student.

Simpson, who qualified to represent Jamaica through grandparents, said going to Ivy League Yale afforded her the opportunity to pursue her two great life passions.

“Yale provided me with a perfect balance between my love for the game and an excellent academic opportunities. I chose Yale because it holds everything I ever wanted in a college,” said the South Florida woman.

Simpson, who has been a constant invitee to the Girlz team but has yet to officially don the national colours, is looking forward to finally lacing up during the current camp and friendly international against South Africa on Sunday.

“I was supposed to be with the team in qualifiers in August, but I got an injury to my Achilles in July… I was like on the roster for everything, but this will be like my first time that I will be able to play, so it has been a while,” Simpson stated.

—Sean Williams

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