Reinas Academy a potential game changer in women's football

Reinas Academy a potential game changer in women's football

Observer writer

Saturday, January 23, 2021

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WHEN everyone was running scared from the pandemic caused by COVID-19 last year, Neo Oxford decided to go against the grain and do something groundbreaking.

After five years of coaching football for schoolboys and girls' football at his alma mater Meadowbrook High, he decided to quit in order to focus on his own dream.

Oxford founded the Reinas Academy in July of 2020 to give girls who want to play football the dedicated attention he thinks they deserve.

“They say the worst disability is to have sight, but lack vision. Female football has been growing around the world and even here in Jamaica recently, with our ladies going to the World Cup in France in 2019. But look inside the country – where really is our development for our young girls?” he questioned.

“Many academies are out there, but not one that specialises in the development of our female footballers. So, with that comes the birth of Reinas,” Oxford added.

Reinas is Spanish and means “queens”, and the motto of the academy is La Realeza Nunca es Derrotada (Royalty is Never Defeated).

The 30-year-old explained the critical reason for stepping away from coaching at the high school level to focus on his own academy.

“I believe that at Meadowbrook I was able to impact lives, but my reach was restricted. So at Reinas we don't only have girls from Meadowbrook, but from many different high schools,” said Oxford.

At the moment, training at the academy is limited to once per week with the hopes that things will change soon.

“We would love to train every day, but due to COVID-19 and the restrictions we are only able to train once a week,” he explained.

The former goalkeeper says that since the formation of the academy there has been a lot of inquires from girls wanting to join, but he has had to refrain from increasing his numbers at this time.

“Our girls currently range from 12 to 18 years old. Many girls have reached out to us through our social media pages but we have to limit our numbers at the moment due to the pandemic,” Oxford noted.

As can be expected, Oxford has had help – both locally and internationally – to set up and run the academy.

“Reinas Academy has been blessed with affiliates such as the Game Of Life Foundation, based in Jamaica, and Football For The World Foundation, based in America. With their assistance our academy moved from a thought to a reality. Also, locally, Sprint Print has come to our assistance as we seek to make a real impact on the football landscape,” he stated.

A number of the players currently at the academy have been a part of the national age group set-up and are eyeing a return to national duty once football returns to the island.

“Of our current 13 girls, nine have been able to get called to a national squad at either the U14, U15 or U20 age group. Many of them had their eyes set on upcoming age group World Cup qualifiers, which were cancelled due to the pandemic,” Oxford said.

He explained that he has had to reshape his immediate plans as he continues to work with the young ladies, with an eye on the future.

“The objectives have changed and currently, it's just ensuring that we take this time to self-evaluate, work on weaknesses and strengthen our strengths – so when the sport does come back, we are in front of that eight ball,” Oxford expressed.

The academy is being run by a small group at the moment, with others waiting in the wings for things to pick up.

“There's myself and I liaise with former National Youth Coach Toni Cowan. I also work closely with Monica Bosiljevac, director and head coach of the Football For The World Foundation. We have also been able to acquire services of some former female national players who are ready to come on board when the sport returns and our numbers grow,” he said.

So, while other take a wait and see approach, Neo, who is the son of Kingston College football legend Neville Oxford, has thrown his hat squarely into the ring as he seeks to help shape women's football on the island.

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