Jamaica Women's team celebrate their win over Panama

The Reggae Girlz Seal Their Place At France 2019

Jamaica has just captured the hearts of everyone involved women’s football, well, everyone outside of Panama. The Reggae Girlz defeated Panama to confirm their place in next summer’s Women’s World Cup. They become the first side from the Caribbean to reach the competition after winning the shoot-out 4-2 following a 2-2 extra-time draw.

Jamaica went ahead in the 14th minute when Khadija Shaw scored an unmarked header from Jody Brown and that is how it stayed going into half-time.

Panama were much more dangerous after the break, and they made that pressure count in the 74th minute when the captain, Natalia Mills, finished past Jamaican goalkeeper Sydney Schneider. The game then went to extra time.

It was the Reggae Girlz who took an extra time the lead through Jody Brown. Substitute Lineth Cedeno to send the contest to penalties after her equaliser five minutes before the end.

The Caribbean side kept their nerve in the proceeding penalty shoot-out. It was their substitute goalkeeper, Nicole McClure, that will capture the headlines after making key saves from Lineth Cedeno and Kenia Rangel. It left Dominique Bond-Flasza to score the winning penalty and book Jamaica’s place in France 2019.

Panama will have another opportunity to make next year’s world finals, as they will meet Argentina in an intercontinental play-off next month.

Jamaica celebrate their win over Panama. 

The most stunning thing about this story is that as recently as 2010, due to lack of funding, the Jamaica Football Federation cut the senior women’s program as well as the women’s Olympic program. The team was then unable to participate in the qualifiers for the 2011 Women’s World Cup and later that year, due to inactivity for more than 3 years, the side went unranked in the FIFA Women’s World Rankings.

Head coach, Hue Menzie dedicated the win to Cedella Marley “for putting her neck on the line for us.” In 2014, Cedella, daughter of football lover and musician, Bob Marley, was named the team’s official ambassador and is credited as playing a large part in their fundraising efforts. As well as being the chief executive officer of her late father’s record label she is also a respected fashion designer and had previously creating Jamaica’s kit for the London 2012 Olympics.

Since the turn of the year, the Reggae Girlz have won ten games and lost only five. However, these results have come against neighbouring Caribbean countries such as Cuba, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago. The higher calibre of opponent in France next summer will make further success difficult, only last week they were comfortably beaten 6-0 by the USA. Many will rightly argue that their biggest success is simply being there and they will be determined to make their country proud and inspire a new generation of Reggae Girlz to take up the sport.

The girls will be over in England later this month when they play a friendly against Nottingham Forest Ladies.

Stuart Barker
hellosince71@gmail.com