Jamaica’s Women’s World Cup ends, but their fight for support continues

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Jamaica’s Women’s World Cup run might be over for now, but the team’s fight for support back home continues.

The Reggae Girlz were disbanded 15 years ago when the Jamaican federation cut funding for the team. Revived in 2014, they’ve scrapped for resources ever since.

Jamaica’s performance at the global tournament in Australia and New Zealand may be turning that around. The Reggae Girlz became the first Caribbean nation to reach the knockout round, advancing in just their second appearance.

The campaign came to an end on Tuesday night when Jamaica fell to Colombia 1-0 in Melbourne. Catalina Usme’s goal was the only one that the Reggae Girlz conceded over the course of the tournament.

“We’ve put ourselves on the map and we’ve showed what we can actually do,” goalkeeper Becky Spencer said. “I think with more funding and more resources, it just shows you what kind of team that we’ve got and we can only get better. I’m hoping that the federation starts to take us seriously and just pays attention to what we’re doing out here.”

Reggae legend Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella Marley, heard about the team’s plight in 2014, and has since served as the team’s ambassador and fundraiser. The Bob Marley foundation is one of the team’s sponsors.

Despite her efforts, the Reggae Girlz still struggled to prepare for the World Cup after qualifying last year. Ahead of the tournament, Khadija “Bunny” Shaw and Cheyna Matthews posted a lengthy statement on social media.

“On multiple occasions, we have sat down with the federation to respectfully express concerns resulting from subpar planning, transportation, accommodations, training conditions, compensation, communication, nutrition and accessibility to proper resources,” the statement said. “We have also showed up repeatedly without receiving contractually agreed upon compensation.”

The post spurred a pair of crowdfunding campaigns to help the team pay for a pre-tournament camp and support staff.

The Jamaican Football Federation released a statement lamenting that such efforts took away focus from the team’s historic achievement — while at the same time welcoming the financial assistance.

“I think we showed what we can do with little support,” Matthews said, adding that the team could do so much more with more preparation, games and competition.

Jamaica coach Lorne Donaldson said after the team played in the 2019 Women’s World Cup nothing changed. He noted that this year the Reggae Girlz had no international games in six months leading up to the tournament.

“Hopefully we all can come together now and try to figure something out,” Donaldson said. “We have some decent young players, so we can have a decent transition ... and start preparing for the future tomorrow.”

The Reggae Girlz don’t have much time to regroup following the loss. Next month they’ll play Canada in Toronto for the second CONCACAF spot in next year’s Paris Olympics. The United States already secured the other berth.

Canada got knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage.

“I think we’ll kind of have momentum,” Jamaica’s Chantelle Swaby said. “I think we still have momentum even though we lost. And obviously with Canada’s result it will be a great challenge because they’ll be hungry to win. We’ll be just as hungry to compete.”


AP World Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/fifa-womens-world-cup