Ricketts vows Girlz will get necessary support to ignite World Cup preparation

By Ian Burnett
Sport Editor

Sunday, January 20, 2019

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By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” is a well known quote by one of the Founding Fathers of America, Benjamin Franklin.

And it's a tenet that has been slavishly adopted by many for centuries and is therefore one that the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) clearly does not want to ignore, as the Senior Women's Football Team prepares to make its historic appearance at the 2019 Fifa Women's World Cup in France this summer.

The Reggae Girlz, who became the first Caribbean team to qualify for the global showpiece event, are drawn in Group C alongside Brazil, Italy and Australia in the June 7 – July 7 event.

JFF President Michael Ricketts believes the local governing body has the requisite plans in place to provide the Girlz with the greatest opportunity to give of their best and try to advance from the preliminary stages.

“We are excited, as challenging as it is going to be, but we are bracing ourselves for the challenges, and again I'm going to reiterate the competence and strength of our staff members,” Ricketts told the Jamaica Observer in an exclusive interview in midweek.

“We have definitely been putting things in place. The first of three camps starts today (Wednesday), then we have two home games against Chile at the National Stadium on February 28 and the second one on March 3 at Catherine Hall Stadium,” he added.

The Reggae Girlz, including a number of first-timers, are currently on the North Coast in a one-week training camp, where the technical staff are using the opportunity to scout players as they look to strengthen the squad for the World Cup.

It is the hope of the technical staff to have games against teams which mirror their World Cup opponents from South America, hence the game against Chile, Europe and Asia.

After this camp ends, they then embark on another training camp in March in Florida, where they are expected to play another international friendly match, initially set against New Zealand, but is now likely to be changed, as the New Zealand officials have indicated that the United States Women's team has offered to play against them.

“The latest thing we got from New Zealand was that they have been approached by the US, so we are keeping our fingers crossed, but if New Zealand is not available we have actually had initial discussions with Mexico, and of course we will be looking around for other engagements,” Ricketts shared.

He added: “We have also been unofficially invited to a tournament in the Philippines and we are waiting on a formal invitation and this will be late April. And South Africa has expressed an interest also, so we are in a position right now where we do have options, so certainly in another two or three weeks we will definitely be in a position to say who were are going to play — whether it's New Zealand, Mexico or we going to head down to the Philippines or South Africa.”

The Philippines engagement would be a three-team tournament involving South Korea and the hosts.

Preparations are slated to continue in mid-May when the team conducts its final training camp in England, where they will be housed by Nottingham Forest.

And according to Ricketts, the JFF and the hosts are “in the process of having those arrangements finalised”.

They are also in dialogue with Scotland to have a game during that camp before heading to France on June 1, where they are hoping to have a game with Spain.

At the World Cup the Jamaicans will open their campaign on June 9 against Brazil, before facing Italy on June 14. Four days later they engage Australia.

“We are hopeful and I'm giving the girls a real chance to go forward to the second stage, depending on the results in the preliminary stage,” noted Ricketts.

The JFF boss has said that his federation is indebted to the strong support of the minister of sport Olivia Grange, whom he referred to as a “tower of strength”.

“Minister Grange has been very strong and supportive and she has played a pivotal role in all of this. She has been a tower of strength, especially as it relates to this particular camp.

“The JOA (Jamaica Olympic Association) has been very supportive as well. They assisted us in going to the CAC Games (last summer), which provided a real chance to look at the Girlz and realise that based on what happened there, that we genuinely had a chance to qualify for the World Cup because there were some quality teams there. We lost two games by the odd goal and won the other. That was really a yard stick to measure the girls' progress and it also provided very important preparation time, so I want to mention the contribution of the JOA,” reiterated Ricketts.

“The company out of England called Alacran would have given us so much support and we must mention their input. The Bob Marley Foundation would have contributed significantly as well, and I want to mention the work of our coaches.

“Caribbean Airlines would have been one of our new sponsors along with Supreme Ventures, Jamaica National — and Wisynco came back through the Coca-Cola and Wata brands,” beamed Ricketts, who is fully aware of the significant boost sponsors bring to the programme.

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