I NEED TIME!
Despite being given the nod to continue until the end of the year, Interim Reggae Girlz Head Coach Xavier Gilbert says he will need more time to reflect on whether he wants the national senior women’s team’s role permanently.
Gilbert, who was named assistant in 2021, was given the chance to lead the team in last month’s Concacaf W Gold Cup Qualifiers against Panama and Guatemala, respectively, after the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) was unable to name a permanent replacement for Lorne Donaldson, whose contract was not renewed.
However, despite a defeat and draw in the two games, the JFF Technical Committee recommended that Xavier continue in the role for the final two games of the qualifiers.
Speaking to the Jamaica Observer, Gilbert isn’t ready to ponder his long-term future.
“It’s something I’d have to think about. I haven’t thought about it, to be honest. It’s something that requires a lot of thinking, so I’ll think about it if it gets there, of course,” he said.
“I’ll always give my all for my country in whatever I do. Both games I think we could have won, but nevertheless, the time it took to assemble the unit, the sessions we got in. We have to applaud them, we can’t let that go unnoticed.”
Gilbert has overseen many of the national women’s youth teams, including the Reggae Girlz’s Under-20, Under-17, and Under-15 teams and also has had success in the local high school and professional level with the likes of Excelsior, Waterhouse, and Fraszier’s Whip.
Despite the pay issues that surrounded the players and the staff, Xavier said turning down the call-up wouldn’t have benefited the women’s programme.
“I’ve always managed to do what I do in a professional way, and being a part of the staff, I just act professionally right through. There’s no bad blood. The reality is that somebody had to do it, and I was asked to serve my country,” he said.
“I’ve been around the programme since 2005, it’s been a long journey. I remember when we didn’t have a senior women’s team and we struggled, but we have been to two World Cups since. The reality is I just don’t want it to go back there.”
Though it remains to be seen whether the senior players who turned down call-ups for the qualifiers will return for the next international window, Gilbert is willing to work with any player that makes themselves available.
“There’s a lot of young talent coming through and they have to be given the opportunity. The opportunities that some of them get at this point in time, some will do well,” Gilbert said.
“[For example,] Shanice Foster came on [against Guatemala] and did well. She was in Israel playing, and based on the violence in Israel, a club might just pick her up. I had a chat with her when I called her up that the opportunity might come because there’s different leagues and if they know you’re available, they might just sign you in the next window, so you just have to come out and give your best.”
The Reggae Girlz host Panama on November 29 before travelling to Guatemala for their game on December 3. Jamaica, in League A, currently sit bottom of Group B with one point, three behind second-placed Guatemala and five behind leaders Panama. They must win those matches to automatically qualify for the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup in the USA from February 20 to March 10 next year.
However, if they finish above second-placed Guatemala, they will advance to a play-off match against one of the three group winners of League B, which would take place prior to the start of the Gold Cup.