NEWS

A huge void!

Monday, September 13, 2021

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JAMAICA'S football fraternity was yesterday plunged into mourning following news of the passing of top managerial figure Jean Nelson who lost a brief battle with illness on Saturday.

The admiration and respect for Nelson came into sharp focus yesterday as there was a tremendous outpouring of tributes from players and colleagues she impacted along the way, in a career spanning over 20 years.

Reactions to the passing of Nelson, whose tremendous impact on the game, particularly women's football, was highlighted by the Reggae Girlz' historic appearance at the Fifa Women's World Cup Finals in France 2019, were emotional to say the least.

A former player, Nelson took up administrative duties after her playing days were curtailed by injuries, and she was one of the driving forces who started the first women's football league, circa 1990, as well as the first official president of the Jamaica Women's Football Association.

Michael Ricketts, Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) president, remembered his last outing with Nelson for the US Women's Soccer Summer Series in Houston, Texas in June.

“A few months ago we were in Texas together and she complained about not feeling well, but we just never thought that it was anything that was life-threatening until we heard she was diagnosed with cancer.

“But we are just deeply saddened by the loss of a servant of the sport, a team player and an icon of the sport of football. She really served the sport with such distinction,” Ricketts told the Jamaica Observer.

“It is going to be tough to fill her shoes, having served as Reggae Girlz team manager for so many years. She was such a loyal servant and so it is going to be a real challenge to replace her. I must use this opportunity to also express my deepest condolences to the close friends and family members of Jean Nelson,” he added.

Elaine Walker-Brown, another avid women's football advocate and administrator who now serves as president of the St Catherine Football Association, has had a long working relationship with Nelson.

“I met Jean in 1990 when she was a player of the Wildcats football team and the president of the Jamaica Women's Football Association. Jean was committed, passionate and dedicated about the sport; she was more than a manager to the players. For her, it wasn't about pay or money, it was about the players and what they can achieve through the sport of football,” Walker-Brown shared from her room in Curacao, where she is on assignment at the Women's Under-20 qualifiers.

“We have worked together for many years and I am happy that for her last assignment in June, we were together. I must say that I take comfort in the fact that Jean was a child of God and I am happy that we spent those last days in Houston together, not knowing that it would be the last time. Jamaica has lost, heaven has gained,” she added.

President of the Kingston and St Andrew Football Association (KSAFA), Wayne Shaw remembers Nelson as one who displayed her passion and love for the game of football through her years of service to the sport.

“Jean was a close personal friend and former co-worker, and we both shared the love for the beautiful game of football. It was her passion. She has served the country with distinction and she will be greatly missed. Condolences to her daughter Renee and family members and the football fraternity,” Shaw said.

Meanwhile, former Reggae Girlz Head Coach Hue Menzies, who guided the team to its historic appearance in France, hailed Nelson as a stalwart of the women's game.

“Jean was very instrumental to the women's programme and was like the root of the tree of the women's programme, and it is really sad that she is gone. She was such a lovely soul. She once thanked me for being the person to give her an opportunity to be at the World Cup, which is a really big thing that she really wanted to achieve.

“So we have lost a stalwart of women's football and football in Jamaica on a whole, as she impacted a lot of females' lives. So, our condolence goes out to the family,” Menzies said.

— Sherdon