A good year

Reggae Girlz success sparks hope in 2018

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

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While expressing gratitude for last year's successes, president of the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) Michael Ricketts is strongly optimistic that the new year holds even greater possibilities.

In his reflections, the JFF boss pointed to the Reggae Girlz's historic qualification to the FIFA 2019 World Cup in France as the high point of the year as his administration took a leap of faith in giving the programme its full backing.

The Reggae Girlz became the first Caribbean team to reach the FIFA Women's World Cup by defeating Panama 4-2 on penalties in their third-place play-off match at the Concacaf Women's Championship in Texas in October. The teams initially played out a 2-2 scoreline in full and extra time.

“It was a good year for us. we would have loved to achieve one more with the Under-20 male team, but we have so much to give thanks for, and like I said, I prayed when I entered the contest for the position as JFF president and I said to the Almighty that if this is your will, then so let it be, but if not, then I will just go back to what I am accustomed to.

“So He made me president and He will not allow me to fail. I can say that without any fear of contradiction, and I give thanks for His inspiration, guidance and wisdom as we made some correct decisions that would have translated into a positive result,” Ricketts told the Jamaica Observer.

Ricketts is also anticipating an eventful year for his administration this year, one to be filled with many new experiences as well as challenges.

Along with the Fifa Women's World Cup scheduled for June 7 to July 7, Jamaica is also expected to make appearances at the Gold Cup scheduled for June 15 to July 7, and the Pan American Games from July 26 to August 11.

Additionally, the Under-17 men's team is expected to engage in World Cup qualifiers, while the Under-23 team is expected to commence their qualification phase for a spot at the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan

“We want 2019 to be a watershed year for football. we want to be competitive at the World Cup and the PanAm Games, which is also history in the making again because it is the first time Jamaica would have had both male and female teams at the PanAm Games,” said Ricketts.

“We want to be competitive at the Gold Cup and we also want to make our mark on the Under-17 World Cup qualifiers, so we are hoping and praying that 2019 will be another successful year for us. The platform has been set by the [Reggae] Girlz and we just hope that we will be able to take build on it,” he added.

Ricketts explained that plans are currently in place to aid in the Reggae Girlz's preparation phase, which includes five practice games against Chile, New Zealand, Scotland and Spain ahead of the World Cup.

The two Chile fixtures are expected to take place at the National Stadium as well as Montego Bay Sports Complex in Catherine Hall during the team's February camp, while the New Zealand fixture is set for Fort Lauderdale in April.

From there, the team will fly to England for the Scotland fixture before skipping over to France for a clash with Spain just before World Cup kick-off.

The number 53-ranked Jamaicans were drawn in Group C alongside top-ranked Australia at number six in the world, number 10-ranked Brazil and Italy, ranked at number 16 in the Fifa rankings.

“We hope that this will put us in good stead to be very competitive when we get to France in six months. We want to play two games here because we must give Jamaicans a chance to see these girls and we want to ensure that we do it before we go to France,” Ricketts noted.

“I am extremely delighted to be a part of the Girlz's accomplishment, and I also want to express gratitude to minister [of sport] Olivia Grange, who has contributed so much to the Reggae Girlz.

“I would like to recognise Cedella Marley and the Marley foundation, as well as Alacran Foundation, and all others who played a part in making the year a successful one, and we do certainly hope that 2019 will be even better,” he ended.

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