‘Patriotic’ Sweatman thinks strike creates opportunity for fringe players
Despite the core of the Reggae Girlz squad turning down call-ups for the recent international games due to pay issues with the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF), midfielder Marlo Sweatman said she wanted to show her commitment to Jamaica by making herself available.
In October’s Concacaf W Gold Cup Qualifiers against Panama and Guatemala, the national senior women’s team fielded an inexperienced team as the close to 30 women, who represented the team at last summer’s World Cup and the Olympic Qualifiers in September, made themselves unavailable due to long-standing monetary issues with the JFF.
However, 28-year-old Sweatman, who has 18 senior appearances, answered the call after being out of the set-up for over a year.
However, Sweatman in 2019 backed the players’ “No Pay, No Play” stance when the team failed to receive their money from the debut appearance at the World Cup in France.
But this time around, she told the Jamaica Observer that making herself available for the recent qualifiers shows her commitment to the women’s programme.
“I think you have to understand that everyone has a different platform, a different stage to represent Jamaica and right now maybe the stage isn’t for those who are on the strike, but it’s absolutely the stage for us who were not part of the team to continue to grow the programme and the best [ way] we can do that is showing up and wearing our heart on our sleeve and playing for our country,” she said.
Sweatman missed the 2-1 defeat away to Panama on October 25, but played the full 90 minutes in the 1-1 draw against Guatemala at the National Stadium on October 29.
Despite going winless, she says she was elated with the players’ efforts and is confident if they are to remain together for the final two qualifying matches.
“I just think as a young team coming in, you just have to be proud of those who showed up and gave their all. Obviously we didn’t have a lot of time together with people coming in on different schedules and limited training but just giving the squad some time and staying positive and finishing our chances in front of goal.”
Sweatman, being one of the most senior players in the recent squad, served as one of the team’s leaders and even wore the captain’s armband for a period in the Guatemala game after main Captain Chinyelu Asher was substituted.
She says she wasn’t phased by the expectations of performing.
“I think as a professional you love the pressure so whenever you’re put in those positions, you either step up or you don’t, so it’s always a good test. It was a great time for me. I was happy to have been called back and great to be on the field again.”
The Reggae Girlz ,who currently sit bottom of the group, face a must win situation to qualify for next year’s W Gold Cup as they need to beat Panama and Guatemala on December 3 to automatically qualify from League A.
However, finishing above second-placed Guatemala would see them 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 which kicks off on February 20.