We ask only of the best from the Reggae Girlz in Guatemala
ULTIMATELY, all any of us can do is the best we can.
And that, from all appearances, is what Mr Xavier Gilbert, current coach of Jamaica’s women’s football team, and his Reggae Girlz were striving to do in a 1-1 draw with Panama in a Concacaf Gold Cup qualifier in Kingston on Wednesday.
Mr Gilbert, a former assistant coach of the Reggae Girlz, took over as interim coach in October, after the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) — which leads the sport here — decided not to renew the contract of Mr Lorne Donaldson.
The latter is the man who not only guided the Reggae Girlz to the FIFA World Cup in Australasia in mid-year but also to the round of 16, knocking out glamour team Brazil in the process.
The success of that Reggae Girlz squad is unprecedented for Jamaica’s football — women or men.
Shortly after that non-renewal of contract came the cataclysmic news of a complete breakdown of relationship between the elite women footballers and the JFF for various reasons — not least, money.
The end result was that those who went to the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand were now missing from the group selected for the Gold Cup qualifiers which began in late October.
Amid all that, Mr Gilbert found himself being offered the job as interim coach at very short notice. We would not be surprised if he gave serious thought to declining. For sure, there are those who would have seen it as little more than using a basket to carry water.
To his eternal credit, Mr Gilbert saw the positive side and accepted the job, obviously believing that his mostly inexperienced players would grow during the Gold Cup qualifiers.
A 1-2 loss to Panama in that country on October 25 was followed by a 2-2 draw against Guatemala in Kingston four days later.
That meant the Reggae Girlz entered Wednesday’s home game against Panama at the National Stadium needing to win to have a chance of automatic qualification for the Gold Cup. It’s important to remember that Panama, who went down 0-1 to the Reggae Girlz at the World Cup, were at full strength on Wednesday.
The draw with Panama eliminated automatic qualification. Crucially though, it left the Reggae Girlz with a chance to make a play-off qualifying tournament should they overcome Guatemala in Guatemala City on Sunday night.
The odds will be against them, but there is hope. Hence Mr Gilbert’s explanation that, even as the Reggae Girlz tried to win the game on Wednesday night, they had to ensure they did not lose.
Said he: “We have to be mindful and be smart. This is a team coming from the World Cup… experienced and playing together for years, and we know the threat they possess and we can’t leave ourselves vulnerable and allow them to capitalise so [we] were cautious … and we managed to get a point out of the game. We’re still in and we just have to win against Guatemala on Sunday…”
That’s just simple, plain common sense.
We wish the Reggae Girlz all the best in Guatemala City. Win, lose, or draw, their best will be good enough for us.