US-based moms, dads bask in glory of Girlz World Cup feat

BY SEAN A WILLIAMS
Deputy Sport Editor

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

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They have earned the right to savour the success as much as anyone else.

For through thick and thin, the group of parents of Jamaica's history-making Reggae Girlz collectively was the proverbial 12th man. They were present from the first kick to the last, on what was a magical ride into the history books.

Jamaica, against enormous odds, became the first Caribbean nation to qualify for a Fifa Women's World Cup when they finished third in the decisive Concacaf Women's Championship in Texas recently.

The Girlz secured the coveted berth when they outlasted Panama 4-2 on penalties after both teams were locked 2-2 following regulation and extra time in the third-place play-off match at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, last Wednesday.

The USA, who defeated Canada 2-0, retained their Concacaf title and progressed to the France World Cup, along with their neighbours to the north.

Panama will have a chance to secure a fourth spot for Concacaf after a home-and-away tie with Conmebol's Argentina next month.

For Jamaica, every player — even those who never got a taste of action — is now a heroine of women's football in the country. They have all lit a flame that will burn eternally in the hearts of those who have long-believed in the possibilities, and even that of the recently converted.

But while the players, coaches, support staff, sponsors, varied benefactors, the football administration, diehearted fans can truly claim the success, there is one sector of the support plank that can never be ignored — the parents of these wonderful daughters.

They have not only banded together as a cheerleading troupe for the Girlz, but have on occasions dipped into their own pockets to aid the cause during the lean times. But as they claim, it was done out of love for their ancestral home and because they believed.

Sharon McClure, mother of goalkeeping heroine Nicole who saved two penalties in the shoot-out, recalled the history-changing moment.

“I watched the game with her father (Charles), but while he was calm through it, I had a headache… when I saw her warming up I said to my husband 'what are they doing?' and he said they are putting her on because penalties are her specialty,” she told the Jamaica Observer from her New York home recently.

“I was totally overcome when I saw her going out there and I started praying because I was very nervous, but I could see that she was ready as this is what she trains for… when I saw her save those two kicks, that was the best day of my life,” said the Excelsior High School alumna.

Sharon said Nicole had dedicated the two saves against Panama to her grandparents, who died within three weeks of each other earlier this year.

“Nicole lost both her grandparents, my parents, this past summer; and Nicole went through a whole lot because she was very close to her grandparent. And after the game she said she dedicated those saves to her grandpa and her grandma,” Sharon noted.

She revealed that Nicole was not always happy being the number two choice goalie, but said her daughter had an appreciation for team over self.

“She was not happy playing second-string, but when it mattered most of all, she showed her coaches that she was ready to sacrifice for her team,” noted the Kingston native.

The elder McClure, whose USA-born daughter plays professionally in Sweden, said the success of the Girlz is a massive repayment for the occasions where parents had to dip into their pockets to support their own daughters' dreams, or the programme in general.

“I remember when she was going into a camp I had to go into my pocket to pay airfare, and that was not an issue as it is something I found pleasure in doing because this is something that she loves to do… to her it's her job and that soccer field is her office,” she said.

Already, Sharon is making plans to go to France next summer to keep the support going, as the mission is not yet over but has gone into another phase.

For Yvette Bond-Flasza, mother of rightback Dominique Bond-Flasza, the ride with the Girlz was “an amazing and fantastic experience”.

It was Dominique whose final penalty kick of four made the qualification official, and her mother was beside herself with excitement.

“It was stressful, to say the least, but it was a proud moment for this mama. It was a great moment for the Girlz and Jamaica,” she said from her California home.

Yvette, who hails from Swift River in Portland, is known for her manic support of her daughter and the team.

The self-styled domestic engineer and spiritual leader said apart from being in Texas when the Girlz created history, being in Kingston for the Caribbean finals holds a special place in heart.

“As you know, Jamaica is my homeland and I couldn't pass on the opportunity to see my daughter play the game that she so loves for my country, where I was born,” she said.

Yvette is now looking to make the trip to France next summer.

“We are definitely looking forward to the World Cup experience in supporting the Girlz in France — they will need all the support they can get. I pray they have the backings of Jamaicans in every way, shape and form,” she reasoned.

The Rev Dr Laura Tanyi-Remarck, the mother of midfelder Chinyelu Asher, said when the Girlz defeated Panama for the historic gem, her Cameroonian roots burst from deep within, even as she celebrated another great Jamaican moment.

“I was so ecstatic that I broke into Wakanda-style Zulu tribal dance... a dance that I'm sure was joined by our ancestors. I chanted and screamed with joy and jubilation, (with) a profound feeling that I had witnessed a rare moment of heroism,” said the physician.

Chinyelu's dad Kevin is from Jamaica.

Like some of the other parents, Tanyi-Remarck said she has started to plan for France next year.

The Maryland, USA, resident admitted that she is one of the most vociferous fans, and claimed that her voice was among the loudest in the group game against Canada in Edinburg, Texas, where the Girlz lost 0-2.

“I was the loudest mother cursing the referee at the Canada game.We are the kind of parents who have viracariously self-chosen to become Reggae Girlz cheerleading team,” Tanyi-Remarck ended.

But the dads of the Girlz are no less passionate about their daughters' football exploits than the soccer moms.

“My immediate reaction was a real sense of pride, as I was at the National Stadium in 1997 when the Reggae Boyz made it and I would say that my sense of pride was similar,” said Christopher Patterson, father of central defender Toriana.

“When the final penalty kick went in I just could not believe my eyes and I was just thrilled knowing it was historic, and I felt tremendous joy and pride for the girls and the country,” said the former Wolmer's Boys' alumni.

The elder Patterson, who claims he played Colts cricket and football for Wolmer's, said while he had to watch the historic game on television, he was present for the group matches in Edinburg. He said he was also in Jamaica for the Caribbean finals, which the Girlz won.

“When I saw the joy on the faces of the girls as they celebrated, I thought back at the struggles she had as a player, the ups and downs and what she had to overcome, and I said to myself 'hard work is really worth it when you accomplish your goals'. And I am just happy that she has realised her dream and has made history for Jamaica,” said Christopher, who hails from Harbour View in east Kingston.

He recalled how he and some of the USA-based parents formed support bonds to help the team during the “hard times”.

“We were part of the early struggles with the team, starting with the U-20 team… what was good is that the coaching staff and the managers were transparent with us, but as parents our sense of national pride drove us to do what we could to help the team and we contributed in any way we were asked to, but we knew what we were getting into because we felt it was worthwhile.

“But since Cedella Marley became involved I didn't have to contribute anything financially, but in the early days we did because we understood the financial struggles. But we saw it as a chance to give back, a chance to participate in something good for the country, and my desire for my daughter to experience her culture and the country,” noted Kevin, who said he played Minor League football for Harbour View FC before migrating to the USA in 1982.

Richard Chang, the father of Christina, reacted to the Girlz' achievement, simply: “My wife and I are so excited.”

Richard, a former Kingston College student and US Air Force soldier, said his daughter at one point was caught between her career as a Jamaican footballer and her academics, but after a spell away from the international game, decided to return.

Christina is an air traffic controller at the Miami International Airport in her home state of Florida.

“I remember Christina was there before when it wasn't that organised and the funding wasn't there and at that point she had to consider her future, but this time around I believe that she saw the potential in this team,” he shared.

Christina, who was one of the penalty kickers and has the distinction of being the team elder at 33 years old, had put off starting a family for her second bite of the Jamaican cherry.

“I am very proud of her and they way her life has turned out to be. And for anyone to say they have played for their country is a feat in itself, but to say you score a goal is even better… and to score a goal that helped your team to qualify for a World Cup, what an accomplishment,” said Richard.

Richard, who himself coaches the game at youth level, will be heading to France to support the team.

“I have always wanted to take my wife to Europe, and what better time to do it than next year when the team is in France,” said the man who once called Harbour View home.

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