Adversity breeds resilience, and there is no better example of that than the Jamaica women’s soccer team. After folding not once but twice, they rose from the ashes to become the first Caribbean nation to qualify for a FIFA Women’s World Cup.
The History Of Jamaica Women’s Soccer Team
A match between the Reggae Girlz and Haiti in 1991 marked the beginning of women’s football in Jamaica. The team has since become one of the top women’s national football teams in the region.
Having played at the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup six times since 2002, the Jamaican Football Federation (JFF) cut funding for the Jamaica women’s football team in 2008, and the roster ceased to exist.
It would take six long years, but in 2014, Cedella Marley (daughter of Jamaican singer and songwriter Bob Marley) learned of the team’s fate and vowed to revive the women’s program. The next time they played in the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup in 2018, they finished third.
Bob Marley’s love for Jamaican cultural roots had a deep link with soccer. T
he best historical record of the bond between the icon and the beautiful game was embodied in the documentary Rastas et ballon rond (Rastas and the Round Ball), a classic piece shot in 16 mm, where he utters the famous words “football is freedom.”
Achieving The Impossible
In April 2018, the unranked Reggae Girlz, who hadn’t played a match in three years, embarked on their magical journey to the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup in France.
Their qualifying campaign got off to a flying start, thanks in no small part to the coaching expertise of Hue Menzies. The Jamaica women’s soccer team played at the top of their game from the get-go, and most of the national teams they came up against were swatted aside with ease.
Despite losing to Canada, the Reggae Girlz maintained their momentum and bounced back with a 1–0 win over a battle-hardened Costa Rica team, which set in motion their unlikely achievement.
A loss to the mighty USWNT set up a final playoff against Panama. With qualification on the line, the game was deadlocked at 2–2 and had to be settled on penalties.
However, against all the odds and with no financial assistance from their federation, Jamaica became the first Caribbean country to qualify for the showpiece event of women’s football after Dominique Bond-Flasza converted the all-important penalty kick.
They are also the first Caribbean country to participate in both the Men’s and Women’s World Cups.
The Coach Hue Menzies And His Team
The Big Stage For The Reggae Girlz
As the lowest-rated team in Group C who was ranked 53 in the world in 2019, Jamaica was considered a dark horse after being placed alongside Italy, Australia, and Brazil. T
heir time in France wasn’t what they had hoped for, as exceptional performances from goalkeeper Sydney Schneider were undermined by rash defending and poor finishing, leading to the Reggae Girlz crashing out in the group stage.
Their hard work and spirit won them fans worldwide while they were in France. Havana Solaun’s goal in the team’s group stage final against Australia was one of the most memorable moments of the tournament.
Hopeful that their appearance at the women’s World Cup had earned them respect, they returned home with their heads held high but could not secure the additional financial backing they needed.
Hue Menzies resigned over his own pay dispute. In addition to not receiving half of the pay he was promised, he is owed reimbursements. The bonus money due to Menzies and the players from the FIFA Women’s World Cup has also not been received.
The Future Of The Jamaica Women’s Soccer Team
The Jamaican Football program remains shamefully underfunded, and during Olympic qualifying for Toyko, rumors surfaced that the women’s team could be disbanded once more.
Although they did not qualify, the Jamaica women’s soccer team is still here, but without the long-term support from the Jamaica Football Federation, the future is uncertain.
A country this proud can not rely on the good hearts of people like Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella Marley to consistently fundraise. The Jamaica women’s football team has surprisingly qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup.
Their final match in Group A of the 2022 CONCACAF Women’s Championship was a 4-0 win over Haiti to push into the semi finals and book their passage to next year’s World Cup.
In the semi-final against Canada, they were defeated 3-0, but won the third place game 1-0 beating Costa Rica. Finishing in third place is their equal best result in the CONCACAF Women’s Championships.
2023 World Cup Journey
The new Jamaica women’s national team’s head coach is Lorne Donaldson, a former player and assistant coach in the USA. Lorne’s last head coach role was in 2001, before being appointed.
After the women’s team wrote to the Jamaica Football Federation, he was appointed after requesting that they sacked the interim manager.
Within his current squad, he has seven players currently playing in the USA and seven more in England. With such tight finances, the head coach will struggle to see them play in the months leading up to the World Cup.
For his sake and the nations, the Government must allocate funds to support the Reggae girls. The Jamaican women’s national team is currently ranked 51 in the FIFA rankings. (July 2022)
Captain Khadija Shaw
Although only 25, Khadija Shaw is the all-time top goalscorer for the Jamaica women’s football team. Currently, she plays her club soccer with Manchester City, where her teammates call her Bunny. This is a nickname given to her by her brother.
Khadija made her international debut in 2015. The sharpshooter was part of the Reggae Girlz 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup national team and will be ready for more World Cup game time in 2023. The Jamaican captain has played 38 times for her country and has scored 56 goals.
Jamaica Women’s Soccer Team Facts
Nickname: Reggae Girlz
Most Appearances: Khadija Shaw (38) – July 2022
All-Time Scorer: Khadija Shaw (57) – July 2022
Current FIFA Ranking: 50
FIFA Women’s World Cup Qualifications: 2019 – Group Stage
Summer Olympics Qualifications: None
CONCACAF W Championships: 1991, 1994, 2002, 2006, 2014, 2018, and 2022
CONCACAF W Championships Best Result: 2018 and 2022 (Third Place)
Rhett is an Australian-born, globe trotter who is a UEFA ‘A’ Licence Soccer Coach. With his family, he has traveled and coached soccer in more than 30 countries, while attending World Cups, European Championships, and some of the biggest local derbies in the world!