Former Reggae Girlz head coach weighs in on Donaldson contract drama
DONALDSON...there was no discussion, none.(Photo: AFP)

Former national senior women's football team Head Coach Charles Edwards says he is not surprised that current Head Coach Lorne Donaldson will not have his contract renewed.

This is after conflicting details about how Donaldson's contract discussion between himself and the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) transpired.

"When I saw them delay in engaging him in a conversation pertaining to the contract, I kind of suspected something," Edwards told the Jamaica Observer. "They would've either renewed it already or said, 'Lorne, don't worry about anything, we have your back. We're going to renew your contract, but the target date is right after the Olympic qualifiers.'

"But we never heard anything, so you knew something was going to happen."

EDWARDS...once you speak out against the JFF it tends to push you away.

Donaldson's existing deal expires today and the JFF said in a press release yesterday that the decision not to renew was a mutual one.

"The JFF and Coach Lorne Donaldson had a meeting to discuss his contract as the senior women's team coach, which comes to an end on September 30, 2023," the JFF said. "After an extended discussion, both parties came to an agreement that the contract would not be renewed."

But Donaldson has since denied this in an interview during the Sports Desk, a call-in programme on Omega KLAS Radio on Friday. He says he had a brief conversation with a JFF official, whom he did not name during the interview.

"This wasn't a five-minute decision, you know," Donaldson said. "For the first time, he said congratulations on what the girls have done and the World Cup. He mentioned the Canada game.

"But I asked him a question — the last time Jamaica played Canada, I asked him the score of the game, and he had no idea. I said it was 9-0 Canada. He looked surprised and he just turned and looked at me and said, 'We will not renew your contract'. That was it.

Jamaica's Reggae Girlz Head Coach Lorne Donaldson (left) and assistant coach Laura Thomas in a light mood during a Women's World Cup training session in Melbourne, Australia, on July 25, 2023.Photo: AFP

"When you come to an agreement, there's a question and an answer. He just told me that the contract will not be renewed. There was no discussion, none. After that, I said 'Thank you very much'."

Donaldson then declined to answer why the contract was not renewed and ended the interview.

Calls and messages to Donaldson by the Observer for a response were unanswered. The Observer also contacted JFF general secretary for a comment but he declined, saying all that needed to be said was already done in the press release.

Edwards is not pleased with how the events transpired, given Donaldson's accomplishments with the team.

"After carrying the team to a historic second [FIFA Women's] World Cup, the first time any team this side of this region getting to the round of 16, such an accomplishment, and then you release the coach. It's a bit disappointing as far as I'm concerned."

This is not the first public disagreement between Donaldson and the JFF. After serving as an assistant coach to then Head Coach Hue Menzies during the campaign for the FIFA Women's World Cup in France in 2019, both men walked away from their roles citing "unprofessionalism" on the part of the JFF in handling team affairs, including money owed to them and players.

This then led to the JFF hiring then goalkeeping coach Hubert Busby Jr in the interim, to guide the Reggae Girlz through Olympic Games qualifiers in early 2020. This was when they lost 9-0 to Canada, as mentioned by Donaldson.

Vin Blaine was then hired as the team's head coach but quit after a letter written by the team asking for his removal. Donaldson was then appointed as the head coach ahead of the final round of World Cup qualifiers in early 2022, a decision which pleased the team. A number of these players have spoken publicly about a strong bond with him, and he has also said publicly that he views many of the players as being like his own daughters.

Edwards says this latest action may be detrimental to team morale.

"All we have to do is to look at it from our perspective," he said. "If we were the players who were bonding with the coach so well and look at him as a father figure and then he is dismissed in this manner, it would upset us. More so, for the girls who have accomplished so many goals with him, this happening to them now will throw them off completely. It will be an unbalanced team now, emotionally and mentally.

"Whoever comes in, I don't care who that coach is, will have a very difficult task of getting the girls back together, bonding them with the coaching staff, and moving forward."

Donaldson said earlier this week that the marketing of Jamaica's sporting achievements, specifically that of the Reggae Girlz, has been poorly executed by the JFF.

Edwards says this may have contributed to the decision.

"Once you speak out against the JFF it tends to push you away," he said. "It's something I'd love to see corrected because what he has said is the truth and they need to listen and see how best they can accomplish what he has said."

Having lost to Canada in Olympic Games qualifying, Jamaica also did not automatically qualify for the Concacaf W Gold Cup, and will now go into a separate tournament for this in October. It leaves little time for the JFF to appoint a replacement and get the team settled.

"The JFF is cognisant that the Reggae Girlz will be involved in the Concacaf W Gold Cup qualifying in less than a month," the JFF's statement said. "We will immediately put the machinery in place to have competent staff in place for this important competition."

Edwards says this is poor timing.

"The Gold Cup is a few weeks away," he said. "You're going to bring in a new coach now who has to acclimatise, get used to the girls, set a new system for them, a new pattern. They're not going to have them more than three or four days because, remember, these girls are going off to their [clubs and schools] and will be coming back in a window to play these games. So, it's crazy to me."

Jamaica now slots into Group B of League A of W Gold Cup qualifiers, where games have already been played between the two other teams in the group — Panama, and Guatemala. Those teams are first and second, respectively, after playing each other twice and winning a game apiece.

BY RACHID PARCHMENT Digital sports coordinator parchmentr@jamaicaobserver.com

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