Keeping it real
Girlz goalie Schneider aims to lead team in U-20 World Cup chaseWednesday, January 17, 2018
BY SHERDON COWAN
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad & Tobago — Sydney Schneider is like the Andre Blake of Jamaica's Under-20 Reggae Girlz team. She is number one.
And just like the upstanding Blake was instrumental in getting the senior Reggae Boyz team to a second-consecutive final at the CONCACAF Gold Cup last year, Schneider is hoping to do the same with her peers in the CONCACAF Women's Championships.
“I believe in myself and do what I do the best that I can. Obviously I watch Andre Blake. I haven't met him in person, but I got the opportunity to see him in the last game and everyone knows that he was the star of the team, and it was amazing getting to see him do that.
“I think it is kind of cool because in a way we have a lot in common based on the roles we play in our respective teams and obviously I draw some inspiration from him,” Schneider told the Jamaica Observer.
As is the case with many young goalkeepers these days, Schneider — whose Jamaican roots lies with her mother Andrea Kapinos — took up the position by chance and has since honed her skills between the sticks.
Standing at 5ft 11in, the slender Schneider developed a passion for the sport through her father Ernie, who is from a German background, and through practice and mentoring, she is currently enjoying a budding career.
“Ever since I was little my dad was a coach, so he just put me in the game and I just never stopped loving it. Soccer (football) is always there when I feel like doing something; it is like a good escape so much so that I feel weird, like if I didn't play soccer, I don't know what I would be doing right now,” the 18-year-old explained.
She continued: “I started late for most goalkeepers... I started when I was 14 or 15, and we were at a tournament and the coach threw me in the goal probably because of my height and I ended up being pretty decent at it.
“So I played in the goal for the rest of that season and then I went back to being a striker because I didn't like it (goalkeeping), but with some encouragement I actually decided to just stick with it fully,” Schneider shared.
Just as she was reluctant to take up the gloves, the University of North Carolina (UNC) Wilmington freshman rejected the offer to represent Jamaica when she was first approached during the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) Under-17 qualifiers in 2015.
This, she said, was due to her academic commitments, as she was gauging herself to be enrolled in university.
However, she eventually accepted a second time and figured prominently for the team during the CONCACAF Under-17 Championship in Grenada in 2016. She is now relishing the opportunity.
“I wasn't thinking about representing any country, but I now love it. It is an amazing opportunity and I am happy that I have the chance and ability to represent Jamaica, and it has been a great experience,” the New Jersey native noted.
“I get to meet new people and go to great places and that gave me a new perspective because, at first, I was really nervous coming in, but once I got a feel for everything I settled in and I am enjoying it now,” she added.
Having been an integral asset to the young Reggae Girlz's progress to this phase of the World Cup chase, Schneider is aware that the work is not yet done as her team seeks to secure one of three spots to the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Cup in France in August.
Though she will not be wearing the captain's armband like Blake, Schneider, who came through the CFU qualifiers conceding only once, is ready to lead from the front as the last line of defence.
“Over the few years I have gotten better at managing everyone and communicating better with everyone, and I like playing that part in helping the defenders keep a tight line.
“It is a lot of pressure at times, but at the same time that is just my job and everyone has their job to do on the field and keeping my team in the game is mine. My teammates are there for me and I'm there for them,” Schneider asserted.
Despite facing a daunting task of getting by defending champions United States of America, Mexico and Nicaragua, Schneider believes the young Reggae Girlz team can spring an upset or two.
“Based on the last camp we had in Florida and the friendly games that we played, we did really well. Each player worked well with the other and I know we have a lot of potential. I think that this is the best team that I have played on since I have been representing Jamaica and I am hopeful about our chances.
“We just need to go out and play our game and not worry about the other team and what they are doing. We are going in each game with a plan about what we need to do, so we just need to focus on ourselves and just do the best that we can,” she ended.
The Jamaicans are scheduled to open their campaign against Mexico on Friday, before tackling United States on Sunday and Nicaragua next Tuesday. All games will be played at the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.